Septuagenarian ages gracefully amid bees and vegetables

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A well-tarmacked road off the Nairobi-Limuru highway takes one to Tigoni Hospital in Kiambu County.
Off the highway, a murram road leads one to Grace Ngigi’s home in Ithanji village. The air here is cool and fresh and her farm is a marvel despite her advanced age.
Grace, a septuagenarian, farms on a three-quarter-acre piece on her two-acre parcel, growing a variety of vegetables that include sukuma wiki (collard greens), spinach, cabbages, terere (amaranth), managu (African nightshade) and bakchoi, a Chinese variety. Away from the vegetable farm, she also grows tree tomatoes, passion fruits, sugar cane, arrowroots and cherry tomatoes.
“Of all the crops, my favourite is cherry tomatoes because they go at between Sh60 and Sh80 per 250 grammes,” says Grace, who carries the produce in her car boot and delivers to specific clients in the neighbourhood.
She does not grow other types of tomatoes because they involve a lot of work to break even and are not resistant to diseases.
Another farming venture that she does on a lower part of her farm near a river, which she says has no hassles, is beekeeping.
The part has more natural vegetation since she does not farm any crops there. She has already tasted her first harvest and is planning to add more beehives.

She gets an average of 6kg of honey from her two beehives and she is currently waiting to harvest in a week’s time.

“This is where I keep my 10 sheep,” says Grace as she takes us on a tour of the farm. “I feed them on vegetable waste and a variety of grasses and weeds from the farm,” adds the farmer who sells or slaughters them during family functions.
The former banker, 72, who is a mother of seven — six girls and a boy — and has several grandchildren, joined Barclays Bank in 1968 and retired in 1983.
“I bought this piece of land at Sh198,900 in 1974 from a white settler after taking a loan from my employer,” says the widow.
Grace says she has a passion for farming because she does not like going around looking for farm produce.
People visit my farm to buy my produce and spread the word, enabling me to get a constant supply of customers,” she says, adding that demand for her produce is huge.
Grace says she has enjoyed her retirement and old age because she is her own boss and her main work is to supervise and guide her two workers where necessary.
Dr Joseph Kamau, a principal research officer at Kalro, says farming in Kenya is still dominated by people who are above 60 years. “At 72, the lady is still energetic and should continue farming because it keeps her physically and mentally healthy.”

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