A Worldwide Family

Heavenly Organics breathes new life into conflict zone countries
By Cara Lucas

Some say one must travel far to discover what is already in front of you. Such is the case for Amit Hooda, who grew up in northern India—a country known for its ancient traditions and the natural splendor of the Himalayan wilderness—but eventually left to pursue a higher education in Midwestern America. As a child in India he had a pet cow, a huge garden full of organic produce, and a renowned agronomist father. For decades, his father, Dr. I. S. Hooda, worked with small farmers to preserve traditional organic and sustainable farming methods while also helping them earn a living wage.

Upon his move to Fairfield, Iowa, Amit took courses towards his master’s degree in business. During a required business course, he came up with the idea for Heavenly Organics, based on his father’s own organic agriculture projects. Amit saw the value of creating relationships where supplier and consumer both benefited, and his business plan reflected the cause that inspired his father—the cause he grew up with.

“When I was a kid, I used to go up to Kashmir—which is a conflict zone, you know—for holiday,” explains the younger Hooda. “And I would ask them what they need before they go to bed and they said a piece of bread. It touched me and stayed with me forever because it was the simplest and most basic need they had. As I grew up, I realized I wanted to create a [business] model that would help create a long-lasting, sustainable economy for conflict zones like that. And as a result, we could create peace.”

Today, Heavenly Organics benefits a collective of traditional small farms. In 2012, they supported more than 250 families in troubled areas in Northern India, Central India, and Kashmir. His goal in the coming year is to extend help to other countries and increase the number of families to 800.

“We are working with people from Afghanistan and our goal there is to take some of the products that they are famous for and bring them to the United States. For example, Afghanistan’s golden raisins: when you buy them you are helping a conflict zone and also creating peace.”

Amit now works with products like raw honey and organic whole-cane sugar. This work helps displaced people find markets to sell their goods, and ensures farmers a reliable income. Without it, they have no means of livelihood.

There is a Sanskrit expression, vasudhaiva kutumbakam, that means “the world is my family.” This expression exemplifies why Hooda started Heavenly Organics and continues to expand on his father’s early visions of respect for the earth, animals, and humankind, who all play a part in the circle of life, and in the production of Heavenly Organics products.

“I am inspired when I go back and meet people whose lives have been changed,” says Hooda. “They are so happy and excited—that’s what keeps me going. It’s the power of attention.”

Heavenly Organics has been running successfully for eight years and its products are in over 800 stores nationwide, including specialty markets, conventional grocers, Whole Foods Markets, and Trader Joe’s.