The small red fruits arrest the eye as George Muturi puts them in a plastic container in his farm in Iganjo, Nyeri County.
He picks the strawberries from their trees one by one and later drops them in the container.
“The strawberries I will harvest from this small portion of land are enough to fill this 40 litre container,” says Muturi as he walks in his farm picking the fruits.
Soon, the farmer fills the container. He carries the fruits into his house for storage before returning for more.
“Strawberry farming is a good venture. The returns are good because the market is there. I sell mainly to supermarkets.’
Muturi shifted from cabbage farming to strawberry after incurring losses. “It was about four years ago. I would plant cabbages, but they would not do well. I shared my frustrations with a friend and he introduced me to strawberry farming,” says Muturi, 47, who is based in Iganjo, Mathira East.
“I used to make between Sh10,000 and Sh15,000 after every harvest of my cabbages. Now I harvest at least 100kg of strawberry a day.”
He isolates supermarkets, groceries and factories that make juice as markets for the fruits.
“There is also good market if one can manage to export the fruits,” Muturi, who harvests and packs between 500 and 700 pallets of strawberry each day from his three-quarter acre farm, says.
Each pallet sells at Sh50, but during dry spells, the price is Sh60 per pack as he uses more water to irrigate the crop.
Muturi buys more berries from some 20 farmers in the village, who he has recruited into the business, including Mary Nyawira, who sells 65kg a day from her half-acre farm.
There are three types of strawberries namely Junebearing, Everbearing and Daily Neutral. Most farmers in Iganjo grow the Daily Neutral type.
“I started with Everbearing but the yields were not much. Unlike Daily Neutral, Everbearing could not resist the cold season in Nyeri.”
The weather is dry
With the help of four workers, whom he hires every day at Sh200 per person, Muturi starts picking the red-ripe berries at noon.
Once he is done on the farm, he packs them in the pallets, which he arranges in cartons for transportation to the market.
“Strawberry ripen every day, the reason why we must harvest. Once they mature after three months, you can harvest them continuously for three years before uprooting and planting new ones,” he says.
Strawberries grow well when the weather is dry.
“I make more money when the weather is hot. Every month I earn more than Sh50,000, but this increases during the dry season.”
Muturi also sells his strawberries in Nairobi. He transports them from Nyeri every day at 3am. He starts the journey early so that he can sell the fruits when they are still fresh.
“This gives me enough time to return to my farm, tend to the crops and plan for the next trip.”
A kilo of the berries goes for Sh150, and on a good day, he can sell 200kg, out of which 120kg are from his farm.
Some of the supermarkets that buy his produce are Nakumatt, Tuskys, Ukwala and Maguna-andu.