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YPARD mentoring: My greenhouse tomato production journey

It’s hard to explain the feeling that I experience when I sit down to a meal where the vegetables being served once started as a pack of seeds in my hand. It’s even more fulfilling and stirs a great sense of pride in me when I see my fresh produce feeding my neighborhood.

When I decided to first start greenhouse farming especially of tomatoes, the only clues that I had were theoretical. I still decided to take a chance since it’s often been said that one of the healthiest ways to gamble is with a spade and a package of garden seeds. Fortunately my mentor, Nicholas Korir, has walked with me all the way from greenhouse construction to now where I am in my third month of harvesting during a time of tomato scarcity.

My face to face visit with my mentor happened in early December 2015 and another in early January 2016. My farm is located in the outskirts of Karen in a small village called Karinde. After texting him the directions, it was not hard for him to find the place since, to my surprise, he had mentored some farmers around my area.

During the first visit we were in the process of layering (an activity done to leggy greenhouse tomatoes to overcome the fact that they have grown long and leggy). This process needs a lot of experience and care, two things that my mentor was able to show us practically.

He also assessed the general health of the tomatoes since during the initial stages of fruit production my tomatoes were attacked by fusarium wilt - a soil borne disease which claimed around 30% of my production. He also followed up on the fertilizer and crop protection regime that he had given me to follow through the production.

I have come to learn that consistent communication with my mentor has played a very big role in success of my farming. This being my first greenhouse it had a lot of challenges which, if I had no advice from my mentor, I probably would have given up along the way.

In the coming months I am working on starting another greenhouse here in Naivasha where I will be able to closely monitor. I am also planning to start mentorship of some few youths who have approached me in my area to guide them on greenhouse farming.

Photos provided by Esther Ndichu