Lobelia Roses at 20:  The journey of resilience, zeal and quest for quality

Lobelia Roses at 20: The journey of resilience, zeal and quest for quality

When the signature strong winds blow across Lobelia Roses at the slopes of Mt. Kenya, the 15 greenhouses in the farm stand tall, shielding a wide array of flowers that have been a source of livelihood and hope for the 250 workers who work at the farm. Yet the resilience of the greenhouses in the wake of any weather is symbolic of the journey the farm has endured in the 20 years it has been in operation, with the zeal of the management coupled with the dedication of the staff seeing the farm, like a phoenix, rise from the ashes.
When Silas Mwiti retired from the army in 1992 having served for 32 years, he decided to try his hands in wheat farming and vegetables, and when the business didn’t pick up he explored going into the flower business.

A partnership he entered into would face headwinds as mismanagement took a toll on the business crippling operations and leaving the farm heavily dented. But the fighting spirit in Mwiti, that has been his embodiment since his days in the military would see him burn the midnight oil to rescue what he describes as his labour of love.
“I am never in this business for money. This to me is my calling, my vocation. I love flower farming because I have seen how it has transformed the lives of my staff and the difference it is making in this area. That is why I have vowed to keep it afloat at whichever cost,” says Mwiti. The fire in his belly and the passion in his eyes are evident anytime he speaks about the farm; he smiles as he admires a cascade of flower vases in his office. Each fresh flower represents the numerous odds he has surmounted.
Sitting on 25 hectares, Lobelia Roses has built a brand and name on quality which has attracted a pool of dedicated customers spanning from Russia to Europe who are religious at placing orders. This, the farm says stems from the investment they have made across the flower production chain while ensuring the staff who handles the flowers understand their value. Everything is handled with military precision from tending to the nascent crop, harvesting, transporting and packaging them.
“We are known to have the best cultivation skills. The vaselife of our flowers is longer than that of other growers because of the passion that goes into cultivating these flowers. We also combine the old and the advanced technologies to give our flowers that top quality,” said Ruth Mwiti Administration and Marketing Director at the farm.
The farm’s flagship varieties include Explora, Athena, Taccazi, Catch and Pennylane. They are also among varieties that produce the highest returns on investment. Athena for example produces 180 stems per square metre each year, Catch 160 stems while Taccazi produces 130.
The farm has also attracted buyers due to the head size of its flowers, as the markets, especially in Russia, gravitates towards big heads. Some varieties in the farm measure up to 8 centimetres compared to the 4 centimeters that are commonplace especially in flowers grown in Thika and Naivasha. The company has tapped into the advantage of being in the highlands to increase production of the big head varieties while investing more in quality cultivation. “We have a Russian buyer who every week has orders for Taccazi and since we started doing business, he has never raised any complaints about the variety. He still sources for flowers at the auction, but will also religiously request for the Taccazi variety from us,” said
The farm that is set to join the auction this year has more than tripled production since the transition and is looking at more investment into the value chain as it responds to customer demands. The management says it places huge premium on its workers who are the engine that oils its operations.
“Think about this. We have 250 workers in the farm. If every worker throws away 2 flowers every day because they don’t appreciate the value of flowers and what we do, it would mean we are losing 500 flowers each day. Now think about the implication of that if we translate it into one year. You can easily lose your business if you do not inculcate the value of responsibility and team work in to your staff,” said Mwiti.
And as days ahead look rosy, the company says that management, strategy, right decision making and team work will guide its next phase of growth even as it looks at more expansion.
“Everything starts and ends with the management. If you have a management that understands the business and are passionate about it, there is nothing the company cannot overcome. We have had our knock offs but we have also had time to strategize, deliberate and come up with a plan we are confident will breathe new life to our business. Passion and team work have brought us this far,” said Ruth.

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