Scented Roses and a Mzungu* Mansionby kenya on Jun. 19, 2012, under Life
June 17, 2012
By Jaxon Rickel, St. Gregory Class of ‘12
All of the scented roses smelled like lemons! As we toured the seven hectre** scented-rose farm called Tambuzi, I smelled as many roses as were available to my olfactory nerves. If I had smelled as many roses as this farm produces and exports in a month, I would have breathed in the fragrance of about 110,000 roses. Sally Shear, our tour guide and the farm’s general manager, explained that their farm is very small compared to some of the really big ones, but 110,000 roses is still a very smelly number.
Tambuzi is about 20 miles from Batian’s View and is owned by Tim and Maggie Hobbs. Tim is a white Kenyan and Maggie is British. They began the farm about 10 years ago, initially growing crops typically used for export. Six years ago Tim and Maggie began experimenting with flowers, and they found the perfect crop to grow for Tambuzi’s location.
Sally explained that there are only a few places in Kenya that present excellent conditions for commercial flower farming, with an abundance of water, sunlight, and appropriate altitude. Of even greater importance is the fact that the sun shines most of the year, with 12 hours of sunlight daily. Because Tambuzi is so close to the equator, there is barely any variation on the day’s length throughout the year. They have also designed the prefect greenhouse for the flowers, with very high roofs and screened walls to let in a breeze. Sally said that this environment was very close to what roses would experience growing outside. Being grown in a greenhouse, however, provides for better control of the nutrients on which the flowers thrive. They can also better protect the roses from damaging insects and fungi.
So how do rose farmers grow, harvest and sell 110,000 scented stems*** per month on seven hectres?
Is it by:
a) Utilizing their unique greenhouses and multiple fungal and insect biocides
b) Employing about 24 people per hectre to maintain and harvest the roses
c) Specially packaging the roses to endure global shipment
d) All of the above
Hint: the answer is d)
So, which answer will you choose?!?! (If in need of help, see “Hint” above)
All of the previous is to say that we were educated and entertained during out tour of Tambuzi on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.
After touring a scented rose garden, what could be better than taking tea with the wife of a retired Mzungu ophthalmologist at the couple’s mansion? And that is what we did! Only a short walk through the forest from Tambuzi, we came to the beautiful home of Randy and Suzanne Whitfield, who preside over five hectres of forest, vegetable garden and neatly trimmed landscape. Although their home and property are quite stunning, Randy and Suzanne are the centerpiece. They are merely complimented by their stunning stone mansion and beautiful surroundings.
Randy went to Princeton and received his ophthalmology degree from Columbia. While his classmates were eyeing positions in the U.S., Randy insisted upon being stationed overseas. He was hired by Kenya’s Ministry of Health in the early 1970s and stationed in the town of Nyeri, about 30 miles south of where we are staying.
His first appointment was to run a mobile eye surgery unit, which was simply a Land Rover carrying all of the necessary surgical equipment. Suzanne went on many of his treks into the bush as an assistant, along with other Kenyans training as eye doctors. They would travel to areas in the north where eye care was non-existent. Much of what they did was cataract surgery. Suzanne guessed that when Randy first arrived he was the only ophthalmologist serving three million people! They would use a church or school as their base for a week and set up a sterile environment inside. Because there was no electricity, they would drive their vehicle up next to a window and power the needed lights off of the car’s battery.
Dr. Whitfield then became a consultant for all of Africa’s commonwealth countries, which included Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and a few others. In these countries he helped establish medical campaigns against diseases like river blindness. Often this was simply a matter of education on where parasites existed that would infect one’s eyes, as well as improved hygiene.
They raised their two children inKenya. While Randy was doing his eye work, Suzanne was a teacher at Mt. Kenya Academy (MKA), mainly so that she wouldn’t have to send her kids to boarding school at an early age. Back then, MKA was a small primary school. Today it consists of grades pre-K through 12 and is one of the most prestigious schools inKenya. Randy and Suzanne’s kids are now grown and both live inKenya. Their son, Eston, is a pilot, who is currently working with Doctor’s Without Borders in Southern Sudan. Their daughter, Louisa, is married to a pilot and they have a little girl and a boy on the way. Randy and Suzanne were both very hospitable and willing to share with us their stories from the past and their opinions of the present.
After leaving the Whitfields, we headed for the Equator Curio Market, which as the name suggests, is right on the equator. The dispatch of this incredible experience is forthcoming. Needless to say, it was a very full day and we didn’t return to Batian’s View until 7 p.m., ready for another tasty dinner and the comfort of our cozy beds.
*a Kiswahili word for “white person”
** a) 1 hectre = 2.2 acres b) notice the “re” at the end of hectre: British spelling is used thoroughoutKenya
*** a word for rose or any other flower