alexa Delamares ditch iconic dairy business for horticulture - Daily Nation

Delamares ditch iconic dairy business for horticulture

Saturday November 30 2019

The entrance to Lord Delemare's Soysambu Ranch located near the saline Lake Elementaita.

The entrance to Lord Delemare's Soysambu Ranch located near the saline Lake Elementaita, where the family has maintained its tradition of rearing beef animals, mostly the Borans. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

MACHARIA MWANGI
By MACHARIA MWANGI
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The lush green canopy is eye-catching as one drives on the busy Naivasha-Nakuru highway. An irrigation machine that can be seen from far rotates in the hay fields, supplying water to the crops, an indication of a highly mechanised farm.

The farm is named Soysambu and was started by Lord Delemare, a pioneer farmer who left an indelible mark in the country’s agriculture sector. The family is synonymous with milk production.

Pedigree Friesian cows that would often be sighted grazing in the fields have since disappeared, with the family having abandoned dairy farming and sold the milk processing plant to Brookside Dairies in 2007.

Ardent farmers travelled from far for lessons in keeping dairy cows at the Delemare farm.

The farm’s managing director Nelson Rotich said the dairy business was not economically viable, forcing the family to sell it off.

“But we let Brookside Dairies use our signature brand, Delemare, to market and sell their products,” says Rotich.

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But at the Soysambu ranch, located near the saline Lake Elementaita, the family has maintained its tradition of rearing beef animals – mostly the Borans.

“We sell the beef to the local business people and the returns have been good,” adds Rotich.

The gigantic animals are mostly sold at a fortune, with their list of clientele being who-is-who in the meat business.

The ranch will in the coming weeks host farmers from Uganda coming to learn about beef production.

“Farmers from several East African states visit the ranch to learn about the beef business,” adds Rotich. The ranch is also home to thousands of wild animals.

Over the years, the scions of Lord Delemare have turned to horticulture, with Rotich outlining the complete metamorphosis.

“The family is now mainly growing lucerne for commercial purposes and we have partnered with Vegpro Company to grow vegetables on the 1,000 acres under cultivation,” he explains.

SATISFY LOCAL MARKET

They also grow other fodder for hay production, with the MD admitting that they are yet to satisfy the local market. “We purely grow our farm produce for the local market, which is huge,” adds Rotich.

Farmers across the country have been flocking the farm to buy hay and lucerne especially during the dry season, a venture Mr Rotich asserts has better returns compared to the milk business they were previously engaged in.

“We have clients from all over the country and despite having the potential to export our products, we are yet to satisfy the local market.”

“For diversification purposes, we also ventured into vegetable growing and the returns have been good,” he further states.

The management has also teamed up with local company Kenchic in poultry business with the farm boasting of between 300 and 400 workers currently.

Rotich confirms that more than 600 acres have been sold off since 2007, with the remaining acreage being under cultivation in Naivasha as the Soysambu farm is mainly used for cattle rearing.

But the family’s business centre remains intact, with travellers making stopovers to buy the famous Delemare yoghurt.

“It is almost involuntary for travellers to stop going by the history of the Delemare yoghurt. The brand name is still very popular with consumers,” says Rotich.

Several fruit stalls have been opened at the premises located off the Nairobi-Naivasha highway, with traders also setting up fast food joints within the famous premises.

Businessman Henry Ngángá said the premises are a preferred meeting point for most of the traders in Naivasha.

“May be it is because of the history or the natural ambience but Delemare business centre is the place to be. It is always teeming with a sea of humanity, day or night,” says the trader.

The family’s chequered history in farming continues to earn them accolades with several successful ventures still standing out.