It is not every day that you will find a trendy young Nairobian getting her hands dirty on a farm but 28-year-old Annie Nyaga, founder of farm2home, does that every day, and proudly so.
When you first meet Annie, the first impression you will get is that she is a career woman with a well-paying job. Nothing could be further from the truth.
This is because for the past five years, Annie has been a successful farmer in Mbeere, Embu County, growing watermelons. She shuttles weekly between the city and her farm to ensure that everything is running as it should.
After graduating from Egerton University in 2007, Annie worked as a purchasing assistant before quitting to supply groceries in the city.
“I had been toying with the idea of farming for a while until 2008 when I decided to do something about it. I turned down a scholarship for a master’s degree in biomedical science to do farming,” she said.
Farming has always held a special place in Annie’s heart.
Having grown up in Mbeere and seeing her parents make huge profits from farming, it was not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’ she would give into this passion that had been natured from a tender age.
“I was attracted to farming by the profits farmers made after a good harvest,” she said.
Starting out was not easy as Annie recalled. She was however lucky because her parents supported her. They allowed her to use their farm where she started with growing french beans and baby corn for export.
After a year she stopped growing french beans and baby corn due to price fluctuations and poor harvests but she never gave up on farming. She went back to the drawing board and after much soul searching, she settled on watermelons.
“Watermelons do very well in Mbeere. The fruit is also high yielding, matures faster and has a ready market,” she said.
Her journey into growing the fruit began in 2009. She first tried out different seeds before settling on one that she said was high yielding. She said hybrids were the best.
“I invested in farm equipment such as pumps and pipes for irrigation. I hired staff to irrigate and spray the farm,” she added. So what are the maths like, when it comes to watermelon farming?
“Watermelons give good returns,” Annie assured me.
She invests between Sh80,000 and Sh100,000 per acre. This covers labour, chemicals, irrigation, salaries and fertilisers. She gets an average of 20 tonnes per acre. A kilo of watermelons goes for about Sh28.