Peninah Kabiru listened to her customer at her small agrovet in Nyeri keenly before fishing from the shelves packets of cabbage seeds from different companies.
She then explained to the woman the benefits of growing each and why the prices varied. The woman made her choice and left.
And thinking that I was one of her customer, she turned to me, smiled before asking how she could help.
After my introduction, she welcomed me into her office in the inner room of the agrovet located in Karatina.
Inside, a gold-glittering trophy sat on top of her table, with her name and the category she won clearing written near the base.
The mother of three was the winner of the Best Small-scale Agrovet Input Dealer in Nyeri County in last year’s Farmers Awards Scheme sponsored by Elgon Kenya and Ministry of Agriculture.
“My husband, Robert Kabiru, and I started this agrovet in 2000 with Sh100,000. We called it Jupiter Farmput Supplies,” recounts Peninah, 39, who holds a Diploma in Tourism Management.
The two were guided by a trained agriculturalists at the start, with the help including getting licences from the pest control board and Kenya Plant health inspectorate Service.
To run an agrovet, says Peninah who has employed several workers, one must have good attitude towards customers.
“I also visit my customers’ farms to check on how their crops are doing and to ensure they get it right,” says Peninah, who has attended trainings by animal feeds, seeds and agro-chemical manufacturers like Syngenta East Africa, Bayer East Africa Limited and East Africa Seeds Company, to get grounded in the trade.
But the greatest of all, notes the entrepreneur, is that she often helps her customer gets market for their produce.
“I get market for some of the crops like vegetables through my connections, thus, I advise farmers where to sell for good prices,” says Peninah, who also farms onions, spinach and cabbages on three acres and mainly sells in her agrovet hybrid seeds, agro-chemicals and fertilisers.
Hybrid seeds are the most popular product in her agrovet.
From an acre, I harvest 20 tonnes of onions that I sell at Sh50 a kilo, but price normally depends on the supply and demand.
For cabbages and spinach, an acre takes 10,000 seedlings and after three months, they are ready for sale to traders in Nyeri and Nairobi.
Onion rust, downy mildew and leaf spot are among diseases that affect her crops.
The Kabiru’s have opened a restaurant near their home, where they also sell their produce that includes onions and cabbages.
David Nyaga, the chief officer for agriculture, Nyeri County, says they identified Peninah for the award after receiving positive comments from farmers.
However, he says they had to clarify by posing as customers at her shop several times using different people from the ministry.
“After the visits, our staff from the national ministry visited her agrovet and carried out their assessment before entering her as one of the nominees in the small-scale agrovet input dealer category.”
Nyaga notes that an agrovet dealer can win as many customers by using good language, having the will to help farmers and selling quality products in an industry where there are many fakes.