I met the co-owner Kabete Organics Farm through social media-twitter to be precise. The one thing that piqued my interest in this specific farm was that they farm organically. I also noticed the many orders from customers posted on their social media profiles and the frequent referrals on the twitter wall. Kabete Organics sells itself. I was impressed. I decided to book an appointment with the young man and after two rounds of me postponing, I showed up.
Kabete organics farm sits on a one-acre piece of lush land located within the Nairobi Children’s Recreation Center in Lower Kabete on an artery road towards Kenya Animal Genetic Resource Center (KAGR). The co-owner, Mr Nzioka Onzere, farms in partnership with his mother. The farm predominantly deals in vegetables, with indigenous vegetables being their specialty. They grow vegetables such as amaranthus (Terere), African Nightshade (Managu), cowpeas leaves (Kunde), stinging nettle, cauliflower, amaranth (Mchicha) and Collard Greens (Kanzera), among others.
The farm also grows herbs and spices such as Mint, Beetroot, Neem which they outsource from an out-grower. The farm also has a small plantation of bananas and uses sprinkler method of irrigation. I found Nzioka harvesting orders for the next delivery and this is where I kicked off my conversation. I made an order for a bunch of organically grown Kanzera, which goes for forty bob. Quite affordable for these parts of town!
How it all started
According to Nzioka, Kabete Organics farm was once an idea that took shape with one full year of research. I got curious why it took them so long to start the business. Why did they have to wait for a whole year! I mean, everything is on Google these days. If you have capital you should get started already. This was not the case with Kabete Organics. Nzioka stresses on the importance of market research. Market research was the most important business model of Kabete Organics. This is what has enabled them to survive this far. Knowing what your market.
The farmers identified the niche, organically grown indigenous vegetables, researched on the scientific aspect of growing the integrated leafy vegetables organically, secured piece of land, estimated the costs and identified a strong customer base.
“We already had a ready market even before our first harvest given the healthy lifestyle Nairobians are adopting by going organic. One year went down with us scoping the area and combing out potential customer and their tastes and preferences. That one year was the foundation of our effective business model that runs by itself due to a ready and reliable market.”
The seedlings of the Kanzera vegetable are not quite readily available in the normal agrovets and Kabete Organics have a reliable supplier for the seeds and other variety seeds. The Kanzera crop takes three weeks to mature and harvest and the crop is regenerative in nature. The gateway to the farm is a heap of compost manure, their reliable fertilizer. The pesticides are also organic; they crush turmeric dissolving it in water then spraying it onto the leaf surfaces. Other sources of pesticides include garlic, ginger, neem oil (from neem plant grown within the farm). “This piece of land has never experienced synthetic fertilizer application thus it is sterile. Mary, this is also another form of integrated pest and disease management. Bugs are friends here too, ladybirds to be precise.”
A truck passes by the roadside and he asks if it’s 5 pm and I reply it is fifteen minutes to five. “Every day that truck passes here at five, that is how we tell the time here,” he says. I laugh remembering him missing my calls an hour before; it’s a busy farm. “I’m a farmer, I totally relate to the joys of farming and being detached from the social media life. How do you manage to be on twitter, to schedule for orders yet the farm work is so intensive and rather enjoyable?”
He informs me that Kabete Organics has a mode of operation that entails customers making orders one day before delivery. This also entails the farm guiding the customers on whether the vegetable is ready for harvest or if it will take a few more days. As a Kabete Organics consumer, you eat vegetables fresh, right after harvest and delivered right at your doorstep. They charge a fee estimate to the distance covered. Delivery of a consignment to uthiru is Ksh. 150 for a bunch of vegetables going at forty shillings.
“I close the entry of orders by midday and get to farming and deliveries in the afternoon. Right now I’m harvesting and packing for the deliveries tomorrow. Some will be delivered at seven pm when our loyal customers are settled home from work,” he ably informs me. His customer base for herbs and spices are high end and more remunerative and he even has packaged salads that he makes in the farm.
“Don’t give up on any farming venture. It is a learning process and I’m glad we are finally getting a hang of it as Kabete Organics.” I ask if he desires more customers and he says that is the ultimate satisfaction of every farmer to grow his market.
This is a mama-mboga store like no other; fresher and better. You can check out Kabete Organics twitter handle @kabeteOrganic.