When one pays a visit to Kingdom Farm owned by Mr.Gathogo, you simply marvel. The farm which is located at Beggi area in Gilgil, Nakuru County produces tomatoes all year round. This he attributes to the high demand of tomatoes in the Kenyan market and the attractive proceeds that have made him glued to his farm.
According to Gathogo, tomato farming is such a profitable business idea since they grow very fast and within 2 to 3 months they are ready for harvesting.Currently he has adopted both greenhouse and open field farming. He has five greenhouses.
“If ever, there was a plant that grows with no restrictions, then tomatoes qualify for the honor. It can continue to thrive to heights of close to ten feet without showing any abatement in fruiting. The fruits are big enough and very attractive when ripe,” Mr. Gathogo said, in regard to greenhouse tomatoes.
Tomato cultivation requires a well aerated soil with good drainage and slightly acidic soil. His farm is blessed with river Morendat which passes in the middle of the land but he does not attribute his success to the river but to his determination and passion for farming. ”I began farming tomatoes in 2015 on a two acres piece of land. Today, am farming on 30 acres and I have incorporated cabbages as well. I crop rotate tomatoes with cabbages to prevent pests and disease build up,” he stated.
“Tomatoes are sowed in seed beds well prepared by raising soil a little high and leaving spaces for walkways of around 30cm or more between beds. The soil should be fine and made up of small particles. This makes it easier for the small seeds to break through. The seeds should not be buried deep into the soil but sowed at a depth of around 1cm. A farmer can use a finger to draw the lines in which to sow the seeds and cover just slightly with soil. Spacing between rows should be around 15cm. To increase moisture level, the bed is covered with hay or dry grass. This also reduces splash effect during watering,” he narrated.
Watering the seedbeds is best done in the morning. Watering should continue until a week or two before transplanting where watering ratio is reduced to harden the seedlings. It takes about a month before they are ready for transplanting.
After transplanting the seedlings to greenhouse, the plants need to be supported to climb up and this is done by use of trellising strings. The strings are tied to a wire that is suspended to poles. The plants grow vertically having several fruit clusters along the stem. Support should be done early after transplanting when the plant is still young to avoid stem damage or breaking later on during their growth. “Pruning is required to remove side shoots, oldleafs, diseased leafs and laterals. This should be done weekly in order to remove side shoots before they develop. Weeding should be done regularly as weeds compete for nutrients with the plants,”Gathogo explained.
The tomatoes should be ready for harvesting as from the 70th day onwards depending on the variety he plants.Harvesting is done twice per week. At Kingdom farm, they harvest about 60 crates per week, which they are selling 6,500 shilling per crate.
“Buyers come from all parts of the country, some give orders in advance and thus with tomatoes, you will never lack market, “heconfidentially utters. However there are challenges he encounters in his daily farming venture. Pests and Disease are his main threats; these he avers requires close monitoring and when spotted, he sprays with chemicals to control them before they cause major havoc to his entire farm.
Despite the challenge, Gathogo is a role model to many people in Gilgil and its environs. He has been able to employee 20 people from the locality, who assists him with day to day farming activities on the farm.