When Stephen Muasya quit his job after having had an illustrious 22 years in the tea and consumer goods industries, he found himself farming in Njoro, Nakuru County.
Fina Flora cultivates horticultural products, mainly summer flowers known as Hypericum, on a 30 acre piece of the land. Through gradual expansion and introduction of new varieties based on customers’ demands, Fina Flora endeavors to produce the highest possible quality of summer flowers; which is aided by good climatic condition and the high altitude which the farm lies on; 2300 meters above sea level.
The farm offers employment to the local communities who have a history of politically motivated differences, creating an opportunity for them to work together and live together in harmony, thus he contributed to the peace initiatives indirectly.
The flowers they grow are characterized by big berries with rich colors that are glossy and pleasant to look at, while their leaves are large and deep green. He avers that what excites him most is working with local community members to grow such a beautiful crop with magnificent berries. The varieties they grow include: Magical Triumph which is red in color, Magical Green Power, green in color, Magical Seasons which is maroon in color and Magical Pumpkin which is orange in color. “The leaves of hypericum stems are as important as the berries since their deep green colour is used as a compliment.They are used as fillers in flower bouquets,” he said
Hypericum is a long day summer plant, which flowers during the summer in temperate climates and to facilitate flowering Fina Flora does artificial lighting at night for 6 hours to ‘mimic’ daylight. The extended hours of lighting are usually during week six or seven of the growth cycle; for a period of 4 weeks.
They are usually planted from cuttings that are rooted in the nursery for a period of about 30 days. However, they can also be directly stuck in the field as long as sufficient shading and misting is provided. Interestingly, they plant in open fields without any shade nets. ‘’We don’t erect nets, as we receive minimal hailstorm in this area’’ said Stephen.
The flowers are planted with compost manure as it helps to improve the structure of the soil, improves soil nutrients and helps in the control of nematodes. This manure is composted from vegetation wastes in the farm as well as sourced from the neighbors.
The first flush of hypericum is harvested after about 5 months from planting. After harvest the stems are uniformly graded and shipped to markets in Europe, ensuring a cold chain is maintained. After each flush, the cop is cut-back to give way for a new flush. “After harvesting we trim them carefully to ensure a uniform sprouting. We harvest two and half times in a year. The plants last for more than five years before we uproot and re-plant afresh,’’ he said
Hypericums are susceptible to pests such as white flies, thrips and diseases such as leaf rust. They use sticky traps as well as preventative spraying against these pests and diseases,” Fina has invested a lot of resources in monitoring pests and diseases and in controlling them using the integrated crop management approach while taking great care of both the environment together with its personnel. We adhere to ethical and responsible ways of operations,”he highlighted.
For a farmer with interest in hypericum farming, Muasya avers that finding suitable land in Kenya is a challenge as land is rather expensive. One has to find land at the right place with correct soils, right altitude and has correct rain patterns.
The main market for Hypericum produced by the farm is the Auctions in the Netherlands. However, there has been serious interest by customers from Japan and Middle East. With the expected direct flights to America, the company hopes to penetrate into the American market.
“Europe market is a wavy one, it is weather dependent. During the hot seasons in Europe, they are able to go out and plant their own potted flowers thus demand from us in Africa goes down. In cold seasons, the demand from Africa escalates and as a grower we plan our production as per the weather in Europe,” he explained.
Besides employing the locals, his farm supplies free clean water to them and purchases other farm inputs such support pegs and posts from them.