Monday, 22 April 2013

Young Agrirevolutionary:Turning a hobby to a profitable business

The tomato seedlings
Growing vegetables has been a hobby for many and one Andrew Kyuvi is no exception. For as long as he can remember he loved practicing it at his parents’ backyard with Kales (Sukuma Wiki) being his comfort zone as far as family consumption is concerned. Putting the hobby to commercial practice was his weakest part. 

He happened to attend a motivating seminar at a local church where the speaker talked of converting liabilities to assets. After considerable thinking, he decided to take the challenge and act on the available idle land and his free time after office hours.

He settled on organic farming with tomato growing for the start after acquiring the most essential tools:-
·         3000 Ltr water tank (Ksh 20,000.00)
·         1200 Mtr Drip irrigation water pipes (Ksh 15,000.00)
·         Assorted seeds (Ksh 7,000.00)
·         Land preparation and consultancy (Ksh 15,000.00)

The benefits of Tomatoes
Tomato is a known source for vitamin A, C and minerals Iron, Calcium, phosphorus and carbohydrates. The fruit has multiple medicinal values as a gentle stimulant for kidneys, washing off toxins that contaminate the body system. Men can consume raw tomatoes for prevention of prostate cancer. A single tomato tree grown in good fertile soil can bear more fruits than an average family can eat in 3 months

Factors to consider
Growing tomatoes has a lot to do with liking what someone does just as the seed hit the ground. But, the rest has to do with good seeds, plenty of well oxygenated water, and love for both the plants and the job.
“We have many varieties of hybrid tomato seeds in the market and making the selection determines a lot on the output” he advices.
 It’s worth the while for potential farmers to always remember that “Cheap is expensive” when making the selection. Professionalism is very vital at this stage even if it means paying for consultation. They should avoid cheap varieties for they tend to be less resistance to most of the tomato farming challenges.
Other factors to consider when choosing a variety are the market demand and the shelf life. Cal-J is one of the tomato varieties preferred by farmers because of its high market demand and ability to stay for up to 14 days after harvest before rotting.

It’s important to note that tomatoes prefer well drained soils, good amount of calcium and potassium and organic matter with a pH of between 5 and 7.5. They also prefer warm temperatures especially when ripening as well as reduced disease and pest infestation. 

The water tank
All was set to go. He used the open space farming, planted the seeds and watered them at least after every two days and once a week with some organic liquid fertilizer. Within three weeks, they were ready for transplanting. He made sure the soil was well attended to by use of chicken organic waste as manure. No major challenges like pests and diseases attacked his crops which he attributed to the fact that within the locality there were no similar crops hence the absence of both airborne pests and diseases. More so, he gave Organic Weed Control a try where he came to realize that crops like Dhania are able to control insects before they fully attack your cops. In addition, cover crops help a great deal in improving soil structure. This in the long run is advantageous compared to chemical fertilizers.

New Information gap
From his research on the internet, he learnt that the organic farming area needs to be kept free from all types of pesticides and maintaining the soil healthy by using your own compost as fertilizer is the easiest way to do it. When you don’t put lots of fertilizers into the soil, your plants grow as they should and not at hyper speeds which in turn keeps off insects as less nitrogen is released. Healthy soil encourages the development of healthy plants which can withstand the minor damages of pests if they do occur.
“Avoid accumulating large piles of mulch around the area by spreading it evenly around the plants and vegetables as too much mulch retains lots of water which in turn attracts insects and pests to the area” he advises

The tomato plant
After about 3 months the crop is ready for harvesting.Tomatoes have a ready market in Kenya. According to Kyuvi, wholesalers market prefers non greenhouse products which he believes it’s due to the longer shelf life. The best price to the farmer spans about a week after the rains fall and tomatoes grown by irrigation tend to dry when rained on. Wholesalers come for the crop from the source unlike some other crops where you have to look for market vigorously and not forgetting the profits which are quite encouraging.

Record keeping is also vital for modern farming. This helps correct any wrong timing for planting, harvesting and helps the farmer calculate his profits or losses.
To be a good farmer, one needs to regularly update himself/herself with new information on farming practices. Kyuvi does this by researching on the internet, seeking consultants’ advice and attending the annual Nairobi Trade Fair with a target in mind of what he wishes to learn from fellow farmers. After attending the last year’s fair, he has decided of expanding the crops variety to include cabbages, Dhania, and onions and keeping rabbits in the farms.
And with each dawn his spirit gets awakened as he finds farming quite an interesting activity. He sees no reason why the youths should not be part of the new global revolution that is farming. I couldn’t agree no more!

 Or do you personally see any?