Trained to work in the sky, but earning big through Strawberry farming

Trained to work in the sky, but earning big through Strawberry farming

By Steven Mulanda

Farming is turning out to be the better option that most people are looking for, for financial breakthrough. If it is not summer flowers farming then it is mushroom farming, vegetable farming or fruit farming. Strawberry farming has also found its way in this list of get-rich-quick farming opportunities that people are engaging in, as it takes only 3 months for one to start reaping the benefits. The sky is clear as we drive from Machakos town towards Mua hills on the farm of Victoria Muema who has found a lifeline in strawberry cultivation. On her farm which is called Evia Mua Hills Farm are beautifully growing big succulent red berries which she carefully tends to like babies. Her crops are well grown under black mulch, intercropped with spring onions whose pungent smell puts off snails and other pest. The mulching helps to suppress weeds and retains moisture around the berries. Besides farming, Victoria is a trained cabin crew working for a prominent airline in the country.

She avers that, commercial strawberry farming is a venture that can easily be achieved in this era even in urban areas where land is considerably scarce. The secret is to be smart about it, to remain dedicated and to focus on production since the market is readily available with unmet demand.

As a young girl, growing up in the hills of Mua was a blessing as it inculcated into her the passion of farming since the area was known for fruit farming and hosted one of the best jam producing company in Kenya and beyond.

“The first step to farming strawberry is to choose the variety you want to grow and proper preparation of the seedbeds. One has to meticulously follow the laid down procedures of planting the crop which is quite rigorous,” she says. For her case, she had to attend a training on strawberry farming at Kibe Njoroge’s farm in Uthiru, Kiambu County, where she got worthwhile hand information on organically cultivating Chandelier Strawberry variety which is perfectly suited for the Kenyan environment.

She first carried out a soil test of her farm. After the soil test, it was discovered that it had high amounts of potassium which she opines was good for fruit development as it increases the sweetness of the berries and aids in their size increment. “Lack of potassium in the soil can organically be increased by adding wood ash as per the soil analysis results,“ she pointed out.

She began with 600 splints of strawberries which she bought from Thika and her zeal has seen her now growing 3,000 splints with a determination to expand to more acreage as well as increase to 10,000 plants by the end of this year. She is in process of planting the San andreas variety which is good for export market.

Her strawberries are grown under shade net which acts as a barrier from hailstorms as well as direct rainfall. “I have constructed chicken wire around the shade net which assists in preventing birds and other pests that love feeding on the succulent red berries, “she elucidated.

Muema harvests over 5 kilograms every day from her farm which she packs in a 250 gram pallet and sells at Machakos town and Nairobi. She is unable to fulfill the insatiable demand, having received many inquiries and orders. A pallet of strawberries from her farm retails at Ksh 250 and also sells strawberry splints to farmers at Ksh 40.

Determined to scale up production, she has bought drip irrigation pipes and is in the process of laying them down. Mua being on top of a hill, one of the challenges she grapples with is cold weather, which usually facilitates fungal diseases multiplication.

She has employed two workers who assist her with the day to day operations of the farm. Her advice to young people especially young women; “get your information right, know the dynamics of the market and carry out a soil analysis. Once you have secured a good piece of land in a place that has adequate water supply start looking for seedlings. The best variety to go for is “Chandelier Strawberry”,” she advises.

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