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STRAWBERRY FARMING IN LAIKIPIA

With the never changing improvement in prices of most farm produce in especially potatoes and other horticultural crops in Nyandarua County, some farmers are looking for other ventures as alternatives.

The farmers who are now embracing new farming methods and technologies are ripping big from their produce, a boost they mostly attribute to few entrants or no competition.

That’s what Stephen Irungu, a farmer in Kayole village of Gatimu are in Nyandarua West Sub County has done-moving away from the past and venturing in an enterprise that is not too common in Nyandarua.

Strawberry farming has become his new love as narrates, a venture he says he cannot compare with other types of faming he has ever done before among them potatoes and tomatoes .

In a quarter piece of land, a sea of green plants dotted with small red fruits stretch on farm forming a beautiful site.

This is where Irungu and his wife Beatrice Mumbi spends most of their day time.

The two are the owners of the farm, growing strawberries that they are planning to start processing and also sell as branded fruits.

A kilo of strawberry fruits goes at an average of Sh400 and most of the fruits they sell come from the farm directly.

The couple earns between kshs. 10,000 to Kshs. 15,000 every week from their harvest, which the says is a good earning as compared to other crops such as potatoes, peas and carrot that are common in the area.

They say other crops will take longer and once they mature and harvested, a fam will have to repeat the same process as compared to strawberries where, once planted and matures, a farmer will continue ripping good fruits for close o five years as long as he takes good care of the crops.

 The rest of the fruits is package and sold to local supermarkets and other outlets in Nyahururu, Ol-Kalou, Nakuru and Naivasha towns.

The couple grows the Chandler variety, which according to them is bigger, sweeter and has a longer shelf-life.

There are two ways of growing strawberry depending on the variety, which is through seeds or through transplanting strawberry runners or splits.

For the couple, they grow splits which are what the Chandler variety offers and planted on nylon bags, which according to Irungu, helps to store water for the plants that can take them for a week as compared to those planted on the ground that requires watering on a daily basis.

After transplanting the splits in well fertilised soils, the farmer constantly water them until when they get out of dormancy and start producing new leaves,” explains Beatrice.

Each strawberry mother plant has an average of 10 splits, which reach fruit bearing age at about eight months and the plant continues to fruit all-year-round.

During planting, good spacing is vital for optimum health of the strawberry plant.

After every six months, the beds are replenished with manure and soil stabilizers which help check the pH level that affects the sweetness of the fruit.

Since the strawberry plant grows close to the ground, it is often attacked by diseases such as botrytis.

Irungu is now challenge the Nyandarua County leadership to embrace such ventures and propagate it to other farms across the county saying that once more farmers tart practicing such kind of farming, it will be beneficial to them since adding value to the fruits will be easy and there will always be enough to meet the rise demands .

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