In the picturesque landscapes of Kang’aru, Kirinyaga County, Kenya, lies a marvel of modern agribusiness – the seven-acre tomato farm of Dr. Elijah Gitari.
Though he is now known as a successful tomato farmer, his journey to success was not an easy one.
It all began in the early 1990s when he took up crop cultivation as a way to keep himself occupied.
As a young man, Dr. Elijah Gitari never thought he would grow to love farming.
Initially, he viewed it as a side venture, something to fill his time while he worked as a veterinary officer.
However, everything changed when he harvested his first crop of tomatoes.
The humble yield from his small-scale endeavor opened his eyes to the vast potential of agribusiness, and he realized that farming could be his true calling.
Deciding to nurture this newfound passion, Dr. Gitari continued growing tomatoes alongside his full-time job.
The dual responsibility was not an easy one, but his dedication to farming knew no bounds.
Over time, he learned the art and science of tomato farming, honing his skills to achieve impressive yields and maintain the health of his crops.
His first foray into tomato farming gave him valuable insights into the fluctuating market demand.
While the market remained uneasy over high food prices during certain periods, Gitari strategized and maintained a steady supply of tomatoes throughout the year.
This approach allowed him to sell his produce at opportune moments, ensuring he earned substantial profits even when prices were low.
As of 2017, Gitari’s farm was a sight to behold, boasting plots of tomatoes at various stages of maturity.
Some plants were mere transplants, just a week old and beginning their journey.
Others were laden with blossoming tomatoes, while the rest were almost ready for harvest.
Amidst the sea of tomatoes, one could find plots of maize, vegetables, and thorn melons.
This unique intermingling not only enhanced the beauty of the farm but also serves as a cultural method to manage pests and diseases.
One of the key factors that contributed to Gitari’s success is his commitment to knowledge and learning.
He become a master of his trade, and his vast knowledge attracted farmers from distant regions who sought to tap into his expertise.
As an organized farmer, he regularly took soil samples for testing, ensuring that the crops receive the exact nutrients they need.
Gitari also followed expert advice to protect his tomatoes from pests and diseases, utilizing the latest agricultural practices to keep his farm thriving.
One of the essential decisions Gitari made was to adopt hybrid seeds.
Though they were costlier than ordinary seeds, the benefits far outweigh the initial investment.
Hybrid seeds proved to be more tolerant to pests, diseases, and climate changes, resulting in significantly higher yields.
For instance, Gitari plants the hybrid Zara F1 tomato variety, known for its early maturation, disease resistance, and increased productivity.
Gitari’s success not only enriched him but also enabled him to provide a quality education for his children.
With each acre of healthy tomato crops, he harvested approximately 300 crates of tomatoes, each weighing 60 kilograms.
During peak seasons when the market prices are favorable, Gitari earns more from a single sale of tomatoes than from his monthly salary as a veterinary officer.
He states that marketing poses no difficulty as the demand for tomatoes remains consistently high throughout the year.
When he has a crop during periods of elevated prices, ranging from Ksh5,000 to Ksh6,000, he could generate approximately Ksh1.5 million in revenue from just one acre.
The expenses incurred in tending to an acre of tomatoes until maturity amount to around Kh150,000.
“I try to maximise my profit by having a crop ready for the market throughout the year. Seasons of high prices are more frequent than those of low prices,” Gitari said during a past interview.
However, Gitari’s path to success was not without obstacles.
One significant challenge he faced was wilting, a problem that plagues farmers in his region.
To combat this, he had to learn through experience and adapt his farming practices.
Gitari discovered that embracing new and disease-resistant varieties like Zara F1 helped minimize losses and protect his investments.
In addition to his passion for farming, Gitari believed in giving back to his community.
He employsedbetween 15 and 25 workers daily, providing them with an income to support their families.