Creating a Farm Calendar: Lessons from A Stranger on Facebook
“Creating a farm calendar is no different from creating a work plan. I have used mine for three years now and I must say, it has revolutionized my farm operations” remarks Makena.
The full time 34-year-old sales assistant of a property agency spent most of her time showcasing land to prospecting buyers and returning customers. With no land to call her own, she felt frustrated at her job and decided to challenge herself by getting a piece of land in Kitengela.
Persistently saving and a loan boost from her Sacco, she secured a 50*100 piece of land. With no idea of what to do with it, she left it bare for 18 months. It was then that she was advised to either lease the land or start farming so it could give her an extra income.
“I was reluctant at first. Having just turned 30, living hand to mouth, and a loan to pay, I had no money to spend or a coin to stretch.” She recalls.
This however did not her make me laze around. Any opportunity she got, she did her research on different types of farming and joined farmers’ groups on Facebook to see what people were doing. She would constantly engage farmers and ask questions that would guide later guide her ‘hopeful’ venture.”
Being the planner that she is, she felt encouraged and ready to start small. This led her to draft her three months’ plan, which outlined what she hoped to achieve and how she would do it. By putting her plan on paper, she got a clearer picture of her intentions and the pathway to achieve her goals.
Like any start up, Makena struggled to maintain the farm. With no experience nor background in farming, the new venture had become a tall order. The short term vegetables she had planted only increased her spending, money that she did not have in the first place. At the end of her first harvest, she barely managed to secure a reasonable return on investment from the spinach, kale and tomatoes. This led her to taking another break to re-strategize.
It was then that she describes her online experience as a beautiful coincidence. While scrolling on Facebook, she came across a long post from a farmer sharing their experience. The good and not so good. People who asked questions and sort for advise were assisted and given information at length.
“I sent them a Direct Message explaining my situation. It took them three days to respond but when they did, it was worth it. A testimonial of some sort, how they are managing their farm and how developing a farm calendar changed their life.” Said Miss Makena.
In her pursuit for information and understanding what a farm calendar is, she connected with this stranger who stuck and even turned out to become her mentor. Her learning experience was now guided. Away from all the success stories and setbacks a farmer would experience, this one stranger was candid and even invited her to the farm a couple of times, to get the true experience.
Time had come for Makena to apply the skills she had acquired. She laid out a bi annual plan and what she would grow during that period. Some of the things she put into consideration included:
- Availability of rainfall and measures to apply when carrying out irrigation when necessary
- Knowing what to plant after her six months’ harvest
- Understanding the soil type and quality in her farm and what crops are suitable for what soil pH
- Preparedness against environmental shocks
- Labour to be applied and resources to be used
In her first year, Makena has reaped produce worth Ksh 250,000 from her spinach and tomatoes which she mainly focused on. She organized her calendar in that, the spinach and tomatoes were harvested in intervals such that the whole year she was harvesting something.
Today, Makena owns a three-acre piece of land where she plans her operations using a farm calendar and still manages to be a sales assistant at her work place.