DIARY OF A HAPPY FARMER
BY JOSEPH OKPAIRE
I just moved down to South Western Nigeria. After deciding the need for a side gig, I planned to establish a vegetable farm. The initial idea was to engage in water melon and cucumber farming, but after a horrible experience of not engaging or carrying out market survey. I have learnt the hard way.
Let me tell you a short story.
Once upon a time when tigers smoked cigars, everybody ventured in cucumber farming, so did I. I got two plots of land. Next, I ordered for seeds from Lagos and other agro-inputs. Started the production cycle without even trying do research the market of my host community somewhere in the east. Production was fantastic, I harvested big cucumber veggies but on getting to the market, the ever-intelligent middlemen, sorry middle-women, wanted small cucumber veggies called ‘’short cake’’.
My rational thinking:
Ah! Ah! Who rejects big sized cucumber for small sized ones?
Then I called one of the women, and I asked her why she preferred small sized cucumbers
Her response: “if I buy this your big things, how much I go sell am? See just 200 cucumber don full one bag. But if I buy small size, cucumber go plenty, I go gain and people go rush am because e small”
Me: chai! See my life. I sold the big sized cucumber at giveaway prices because my products did not meet the consumers’ preference.
Hence, a very important lesson to all agro-preneurs or whatever you choose to call yourselves.
Like the saying goes: once bitten twice shy.
So, I entered the Yoruba market and I asked around to know which products sells more, I was thinking cucumber but they preferred their leafy vegetable popularly known as ‘’Ewedu (Jute Leaves or Corchorus olitorius), ‘’Efo tete’’ (African Spinach or Amaranthus hybridus), and ‘’Efo shoko’’ (shokoyokoto or Celosia argentea), etc. Immediately I shoved my cucumber and watermelon idea into the trash bin. Leafy vegetable were the new objective; cucumber was the least item on their daily consumption menu.
Today, I’ll be discussing dry season cultivation of ewedu, efo tete, efo shoko. These vegetables form a special recipe in the Yoruba man's diet. It is needed all year round because it is consumed daily. The market is large enough for everybody cultivating these vegetables. There are many other vegetables you can consider for dry season farming. Other examples include; ugu, onions, water leaf, okra, and even exotic vegetable such beetroot, spinach, cabbage, carrot, etc.
I must state that you should have plans for irrigation either by digging trenches or wells as source of water. If it is on a commercial basis, then irrigation facilities.
The tie-breaker is that you must try to reduce cost as much as possible and watch out for the sharp practices of middlemen. These vegetables are grown for 21days after they are harvested. Yes, I said it, 21days although ewedu is ready for harvest after 28days.
The stages in production goes thus