The don starts by planting his own tomato seedlings in trays before transporting them to the farm. “It is the only way to guarantee quality seedlings but it comes at a huge price since you have to budget for the seeds, trays and labour,” he explains.

But this model has ensured that most of his plants survive once transplanted and he gets more yields.

Last weekend, Dr Mburung’a harvested 220kg of tomatoes and he expects to pick even more in the coming days.

“I have some 14,000 plants, and I harvest at least 5kg of tomatoes from each, thus if all goes well, I will get at least 50 tonnes but of course one loses some of the produce,” says the farmer, who sells the fruits to brokers in Meru and Isiolo at Sh55 per kilo.

His main challenge is diseases like powdery mildew and anthracnose, problems that Kathia Mwenda, an agronomist based in Meru, says one can overcome by using proper farming methods, as well as use of copper-based fungicides, which can be applied through the drip irrigation system.

“Last season, I planted butternuts and harvested eight tonnes, which made me realise the potential of the crop,” he says. He is planning to grow watermelons in July, once he is done with tomatoes.

He also has to deal with the possibility of natural disasters such as floods and hailstones that three years ago ruined more than a quarter of his crop.

“Out of the 14,000 plants, I lost more than 4,000 to hailstones,” explains the 51-year-old don, who employs one worker and hires three others on need basis.

He has applied for voluntary retirement from Teachers Service Commission as per the law, and hopes to leave the profession this month to go to full-time lecturing and farming.

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