She is still in disbelief nearly two weeks later after being named the top large-scale female farmer.
A trophy and a certificate in Judy Njenga Wangechi’s cabinet, however, reminds her that indeed, she won, having beaten dozens of other farmers from across the country.
The award was presented to her by President Uhuru Kenyatta at the recently concluded Nairobi Agricultural Society of Kenya exhibition.
“This is the best thing to have ever happened to me since I started farming,” says the 54-year-old who farms in Naivasha.
“I could not believe that I was shaking the hand of the President after he gave me the certificate and the award,” she says
A visit to her Popsy Judy Farm on the outskirts of Naivasha Town lays bare why she emerged tops.
A lush green vegetation of cabbages, onions, potatoes and tomatoes that are currently fruiting welcome one. She farms on 50 acres in total with cabbages occupying 32 acres, tomatoes six, maize five, potatoes six and onions one.
Nearly 30 workers are busy on the cabbage and tomato farms going through their paces with precision.
“I have struck a good working rapport with the workers and even buyers of our produce and the results are here to see,” says Judy.
Joseph Waithaka, the farm manager, says the award is not a surprise as they have put in a lot of efforts to ensure they harvest quality produce.
Judy started the venture some eight years ago, with the farming bug hitting her one time when she went to buy farm produce from a local farmer.
“I was an active fresh produce trader, supplying several markets in Nakuru and the popular Marikiti market in Nairobi.”
As Mama mboga, it occurred to her as she bought from the farm that she would increase her profits if she grew her own produce.
PRONE TO DISEASES
Armed with some Sh300,000 from her savings, she purchased a five-acre farm in Naivasha.
“Five acres were then going for Sh250,000. I used the remaining cash to start a cabbage enterprise.”
Since she was already known in the market — as a seller, it was easier for her to sell the produce to her large clientele.
She used proceeds from the venture to purchase another piece of land at Sh360,000, and another and another.
“I have been lucky to purchase more than 50 acres. It has been smooth for me because of my credit worthiness at a local bank,” says Judy, who recently bought 10 acres.
Judy displays the trophy and certificate she was awarded after emerging winner in her category.
Judy displays the trophy and certificate she was awarded after emerging winner in her category. Joseph Waithaka, her farm manager, says the award is not a surprise as they have put in a lot of effort to ensure they harvest quality produce.
The farmer plants around 20,000 cabbage seedlings every two weeks, and harvests in about three months ensuring that she has steady supply to markets in Nakuru, Nairobi and Mombasa.
To grow the cabbages, she gets certified seeds from a stockist in Naivasha.
“We then establish a nursery bed on which we apply manure from our animals and plant with DAP fertiliser,” explains Waithaka, an agriculture economics graduate from Egerton University.
The seeds take about four weeks to mature and they later transfer them to the fields.
Most of the tomatoes she grows them in three greenhouses but recently they were attacked by pests. “Tomatoes are prone to diseases though demand is high. They are not a very lucrative farming venture,” says Judy, who uses drip irrigation and draws water from a borehole and dam.
Selling the produce largely depends on the supply and demand curve but on average, cabbages go for Sh50 per a piece, a kilo of onions for Sh45, a kilo of tomatoes at Sh50 and potatoes a 22kg sack at Sh450.
“Sometimes I manage to sell up to 8,000 pieces of cabbages a day, the reason why the crop occupies the largest part of my farm,” offers Judy.
She also keeps sheep and cows. But with the sheep, she is experiencing challenges securing a ready market, what has forced her to slowdown the venture.
She is also scaling down dairy farming as she diversifies to beef animals. “I have started rearing bulls as I move away from the dairy farming. We are milking seven Friesian cows with a combined production of 120 litres of milk per day.”
WORK WITH PROFESSIONALS
The determined farmer says she makes handsome profits from her ventures after paying her workers and servicing her loans.
She has trained her eyes on setting up a processing plant for vegetables, which will come in handy to curb post-harvest losses.
“It will not cushion me alone in time of surplus but also farmers from within the locality,” says Judy, noting farming is well-paying and she would encourage anyone with passion to get into.
The farmer displays a bunch of onions she has harvested from her Naivasha-based farm.
The farmer displays a bunch of onions she has harvested from her Naivasha-based farm. Judy started the venture some eight years ago, with the farming bug hitting her one time when she went to buy farm produce from a local farmer.
The judges were impressed with how well she has utilised her vast farm with qualified personnel who have given a professional touch to the venture.
She has also employed drip irrigation on large-scale. The farm records were further up-to-date and the crops very healthy.
“They were also impressed by the pest and disease control mechanism. Weed control management, rotational programming and data collection gave us more points,” says Waithaka.
Naivasha crop officer Bartholomew Njoroge says it takes a good business plan to farm large-scale and succeed.
“One needs to work with professional who would guide them on the crops to grow, the market needs and how to curb diseases and pests for a bumper harvest.”
Waithaka says diversification has allowed the farm to make more profits from the livestock venture supporting the management of the farm in times of glut.
“With have sound management policies as our books are audited regularly to ensure sustainability of both ventures. In case one sector is affecting the other, we make hard decisions including selling off some of the animals as we are doing with the cows.”
About the farmers award scheme
The National Farmers Awards Scheme is a partnership between agro-input firm, Elgon Kenya Ltd and the Ministry of Agriculture.
It was started in 2013 and has been growing since its inception.
Winners in the awards’ different categories are rewarded by the President during the Nairobi International Traded Fair annually.
Over 24,000 applications are received every year, with the number of participants rising and coming from at least 40 counties.
Past winners have gone on to create agricultural empires.