Business

Couple fell deeply in love with strawberry

Couple fell deeply in love with strawberry
  • The couple owns a quarter-acre in Kayole village in the county where they farm strawberries under an intensive system.
  • Before starting the venture, they paid a farmer in Limuru, Kiambu County, who trained them how to grow, manage and harvest the crop.
  • Birds are the main challenge in strawberry farming, especially if the crop is grown in an open field. But Mumbi and her husband overcame the challenge by covering their farm with a shade net.
  • Besides keeping away birds, the net also provides a good environment for the crop to grow and keeps some pests at bay.

If someone in Nyandarua County tells you that they farm, you can be sure that they grow potatoes, carrots or cabbages, as these are the crops that have been grown in the region for ages.

Beatrice Mumbi and her husband Stephen Irungu, 49, have, however, chosen a different path – well after growing the dominant crops for years.

The couple owns a quarter-acre in Kayole village in the county where they farm strawberries under an intensive system.

“For years, we were growing potatoes and carrots and we would even lease forest land to grow more but we realised we were just farming for the sake of it since we barely made any profit because of bad weather or high cost of labour,” recalls Beatrice, adding that as they farmed, they also sold bananas at Nyahururu market for more income.

But the shift came in 2012 when they were introduced to strawberries and realised that their quarter-acre, where they also live, was more than enough.

“We have 6,000 strawberry plants on the farm, which we grow in a shade net and in plastic bags under drip irrigation for efficient use of water,” says Irungu, adding each bag hosts two stems for good growth and they grow the crop organically.

Before starting the venture, they paid a farmer in Limuru, Kiambu County, who trained them how to grow, manage and harvest the crop.

They then bought splits/runners to plant 3,000 plastic bags that host two plants each, three shade nets at Sh12,000 each to cover the farm, installed drip irrigation and drilled a borehole, which cost them about Sh200,000.

NOT FOR TELEPHONE FARMERS

“We harvest the strawberries every week, pack them in 500-gramme punnets and sell to supermarkets in Nyahururu. We sell at least 50 punnets per week,” says Beatrice. For resellers like supermarkets, punnet sells at Sh80 but for consumers, each goes for Sh100.

“The market for strawberry is huge because people love the fruit. We had thought of leasing land to grow more but the challenge is that the crop offers continuous harvest for five years and one can make losses if the owner of the leased land demands to use it at a time when the plants are in their prime,” she offers.

For more income, they harvest the splits and sell each at between Sh50 and Sh100.

Birds are the main challenge in strawberry farming, especially if the crop is grown in an open field. But Mumbi and her husband overcame the challenge by covering their farm with a shade net.

Besides keeping away birds, the net also provides a good environment for the crop to grow and keeps some pests at bay.

“Strawberry farming is not for telephone farmers,” says Mumbi. “It needs someone who is hands-on. You have to be there for the crop and take care of it for good harvest. The crop consumes fertiliser and water heavily.”

The couple offer lessons to farmers on growing the crop largely for free but those who come from outside the region part with Sh500 each, with their visitors’ book showing they have hosted tens of people.

Daniel Gikara, a former agriculture chief officer at the Nyandarua county government, says good strawberry farming does not come cheap as one has to install a shade net or greenhouse.

“Nyandarua is good for strawberry farming especially Ol Joro Orok, Kipipiri, Ndaragwa and Ol Kalou but does not do well in Kinangop because of frost. The crop is labour-intensive, thus one should be prepared for that but it is a good investment because the returns are good and one harvests for long.”