Farmer on Fire: Using digital storytelling to help a new generation embrace farming
Farmer on Fire is an urban farm that produces digital resources (including Youtube videos) to build the skills of urban farmers on contemporary urban farming practices while also helping them create a brand and market their products.
Could you tell us the story behind the name of your business, Farmer on Fire?
Farmer on Fire is an agri communication hub providing access to information for youth and women farmers in urban and rural areas. We reach them digitally and through mainstream media. Our business model is to link established agribusinesses to the audience of our smallholder farmers.
I lost my office job in the real estate industry years ago, and had to reevaluate my entire identity. Feeling sad and lonely, I started a kitchen garden and asked neighbors to allow me to farm their plots of land, which they did freely. I started supplying my neighbors with vegetables in an area that is known to be arid; the only farming that was done previously was herding by the pastoralist community. Alongside this, I shared my growth journey on social media. I created clips after others were also curious to learn how farming is done, leading to the establishment of Farmer on Fire. Farmer on Fire started with our YouTube channel: the name symbolizes that we are passionate about farming.
In 2020 during the pandemic, I used this digital brand to supply fresh veggie bags all around the city. I also gave large scale farming of garlic a trial during Covid by leasing five acres nearby. I did this for two seasons and had to stop because of inflated costs of water. I specifically started to focus on growing Farmer on Fire as a communication hub to advocate for young people and women to get into the agricultural space. Our tagline is “Igniting Africa”; we are proud agri-influencers working to unburden our parents and grandparents from the role of providing food security by enticing the youth into agriculture. Recently, in Kigali with AGRF 2022, I was a speaker at a dialogue on urban farming and the power of storytelling to change the narrative.
How does storytelling enable farmers to create a brand and market their products in Kenya?
Storytelling is a powerful tool to change the narrative, perceptions and culture. By showcasing the realities of our farming journey, we are able to allow the young people to see the possibility of seeing themselves as farmers and farming as a valuable career in a place of high unemployment rates. We encourage farmers to leverage on digital media to share their progress and to showcase their brand. This in turn helps them to be identified with it, leading to a ready market.
What kind of media do you find most effective to get the message out for your clients?
For us it’s YouTube. YouTube is a terrific way to tell stories and to inspire people to see themselves as farmers. This is the first step towards a mindshift. It is also a fantastic way of showing me in realtime on the farm. Because of advocacy work, I am often in forums wearing suits, with manicured nails, so people might forget that at heart I am a farmer and I clock in to also do the actual farming and training. Farming is often seen as being for peasants, the unemployed and the uneducated. With a master’s degree from USIU in Business Administration, I can show a different picture.
YouTube is not very interactive, so usually I share links of my videos on Facebook, where I am able to engage with people on specific queries and details on the topic of the day. We also share our farm tour details; in 16 months we have been able to have 3,800 people visit our farm to see and learn at a paid fee of ten dollars. Established agribusinesses like John Deere and Zinc Network have also reached out to access our audience to create awareness of a product of sensitization of an issue.
Do you use storytelling and digital media for farmer training as well?
Yes, that is our core business. We provide training in the following areas:
- Building a greenhouse yourself
- Vegetable growing
- Mushroom growing
- Worm farming
- Strawberry farming
- Rabbit farming
- Digital marketing for farmers
We want to make agriculture attractive and so we create stories and wrap them with excitement and entertainment to create curiosity, information and support for people to start their own farming ventures.
Do you also help farmers attract investment/pitch to investors? If so, how?
Yes, confidence is key. Showing people to take pride in farming as a main side hustle helps bring out the boldness when approaching investors. Additionally, it’s important to have a working business model that ensures sustainability. We have a demo-farm in Kitengela Nairobi specifically tailored to this. We provide theoretical and practical support that is both physical and online.
What are your upcoming plans and goals in terms of communications and sharing your stories in order to expand your reach and scale up your business?
We are making use of collaboration by leveraging on the power of friends and acquaintances in the industry and beyond. We also plan to use mainstream media, which has a wider reach and reaches even those in the rural areas without access to the internet and social media.
Farmer on Fire has been featured on several TV stations and we have participated in radio interviews discussing various farming concepts, showing the quality and quantity of our expertise in the agricultural sector. Additionally, we have access to mainstream media e.g., Citizen TV, KTN TV etc. and that helps us educate a wider audience on the countless opportunities available in rural farming for those that might not necessarily be online all the time or may be less tech savvy.
Our goal is to have a movement of young farmers, changing communities, policy and increasing food security in the country and beyond. We want to reach 100,000 young farmers in our social media; we are currently at 30,000 and growing. More importantly, we want to collaborate our synergies and build a stronger system together.