Farming has been one of the lucrative venture that has turned a number of farmers from grass to grace and one such individual is Dr Elijah Gitari who made his first million from tomatoes farming.
Dr. Elijah Gitari turned his seven-acre farm in Kirinyaga County into a thriving agricultural marvel.
In the early 1990s, Gitari, with little passion for farming, ventured into crop cultivation as a pastime.
However, it was his first successful crop of tomatoes that ignited his passion for agriculture.
Recognizing the vast potential in agribusiness, he decided to continue growing tomatoes alongside his full-time job.
One of his key strategies involves crop diversity and intercropping.
By planting tomatoes alongside other crops, he manages pests and diseases effectively, creating a sustainable and visually appealing farming ecosystem.
His farm is full of healthy tomato plants at various growth stages, from seedlings to blossoming fruits.
A critical aspect of Gitari’s success is on soil testing and nutrient optimization.
By conducting regular soil tests, he ensures the soil’s fertility and addresses deficiencies effectively.
Gitari follows expert recommendations, including proper spacing, timely watering, fertilization, pruning, staking, and weeding.
Moreover, he employs hybrid seeds, specifically the Zara F1 tomato variety, known for its high productivity, early maturation, and disease resistance.
These careful choices and practices result in a bountiful harvest, with approximately 300 crates of tomatoes harvested per acre.
Gitari’s approach to marketing is equally astute.
Rather than relying solely on market timing, he maintains a consistent supply of tomatoes throughout the year.
By avoiding market fluctuations, he ensures a stable income, even during periods of price volatility.
The farmer-cum-vet rakes in millions of shillings in profits every year, which has enabled him put his children through university with ease.
From an acre of a healthy crop, Gitari harvests about 300 crates of tomatoes (the wooden box of 60kgs).
If he has crop when price is high at Sh5,000 to Sh6,000, he earns about Sh1.5 million from an acre. He incurs about Sh150,000 to tend an acre of tomatoes to maturity.
But there are times when prices fluctuate to lows of Sh1,000 per crate.
“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,” he notes.