I love food with tomatoes. This is true for plain tomato soup. It is even more true for a meat stew which has its flavour enhanced with tomatoes to add to the flavor.

I however began tomato farming through the investment opportunity presented by agro-companies that had an offer of green house tunnel farming. It is the one crop that they insisted that was a good match for growing the the green house. This was due to the fact that they started giving returns in about 4-5 months after sowing the seed.


I was hooked, I guess as many people who were too, by the promise of returns within 4 or so months and the constant supply of tomato fruits for about 6-7 months.


As this was the time i was thinking of leaving formal employment,e I visited the agro company's premises where they even had a demonstration section to show just how versatile this greenhouse farming could be. They had planted tomatoes, kales, bell peppers, kales, courgettes and other vegetables. The plants all had one thing in common, they looked positively healthy and very vivid in color and had a glorious sheen to them. Almost all the people who came to see agreed that the produce was among the best they had seen. Most had a gleam in their eyes as they prospected how they would rake in some cool hard cash once they had one greenhouse of their very own setup. I must admit I too looked like one of those cartoons who had just discovered the secret to wealth with dollar signs in their eyes.


I thus purchased the greenhouse kit, borrowed my relatives blue Datsun pickup and had it delivered to the farm. I had to wait another 2 weeks for the technicians from the company to be able to come and setup the greenhouse for me. During this time as I had not yet relocated to the farm, I had began my journey to being a tomato farmer, by starting to plant my seeds in trays on my balcony. I would tend to them every morning by watering mostly. When they were about 2 weeks, which coincided almost perfectly with the greenhouse setup, I transported them to the farm for transplanting.


I must say that the plants looked positively, the most healthy tomato plants I had ever seen. Day by day week on week they seemed to get bigger and greener. Then began the intensive bit of the work.

At first it was the pruning off of the older bottom leaves as the plants begin to got tall. When they got even taller, there was the job of setting up some support twine for the plants and trellising. Also there was the all important job of debudding some of the flowers. This was so as not to get too many small fruits, but get medium to large ones.


Next came the spraying regime. This was done twice a week to keep the plants healthy and ward off diseases. One was a foliar while the other was various insecticides and fungicides. For the most part the tomatoes were never affected by pests and diseases on the first run. I was happy for this.


Next came the picking of the fruit. The production takes the form of a bell curve. It begins with a few fruits harvested, steadily increases to a plateau, then declines after the 6th month onwards. At some point I had to decide to remove all the plants and start again. For the sake of a healthy crop, crop rotation was one of the things taught to keep various plant production up. I thus used to rotate the tomatoes with broccoli, beans, cabbage, butternut leeks and peas. It may not be a perfect crop rotation, as you are supposed to plant from the various classes of plants in succession, but at the time it worked for me.


The sales and marketing was a mixed bag. At the beginning, I tried selling to the local market and there was resistance at first as the tomatoes looked too”clean” compared to what they were used to. The market people were also not ready to pay a premium for , in my view, quality tomatoes. There was also competition from local farmers who were growing their tomatoes in the open field. They were prepared to offer their produce at a lower price as I guess , their cost of production wasn't that high either. As time wore on I struck a balance with the buyers who were able to offer fair price for the tomatoes. I also explored direct sales. I was able to sell directly to consumers who were not too picky on price as long as they got quality produce. This method was more profitable, but also more time consuming.



Tomato farming can be lucrative depending on where you are them and also dependent upon how many other farming ventures you are involved in.


The tomatoes are a very time consuming crop to tend to. They need a lot of labor to spray, prune, trellis and pick.


Tomatoes do better in warm climate. I live in the cooler highlands so it made sense for me to have a green house so as to be able to grow a warm climate crop, or so I reasoned at the beginning.


I have come to believe that there are more efficient ways to farming as compared to green house farming. These are specifically drip irrigation farming and conservation agriculture.


Once some pests or disease establish on tomatoes(or any other crop in a green house) it is very difficult to eliminate them. One such pest is white flies.


Selling produce through big retailers such as supermarkets is not very viable as they have unfavorable terms of trade which significantly reduce cash flow.


Would I grow tomatoes again?

Probably not. From my experience, I feel it is not worth the hassle.

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