Two-hour ‘catwalk’with fashion supermodel, now superfarmer on her farm.

She has shared the catwalk with the likes of international supermodels Tyra Banks and Naomi Campbell, has travelled to some 33 countries across the globe and has graced the fashion stages in London, Turkey, Paris and New York. Yet, Flora Sevensson, a supermodel in her own right, has eventually found personal fulfilment in soiling her well-manicured hands.
Slightly more than a year since making the drastic move to the farm and without any prior training or experience, she is strutting on another kind of catwalk as a super farmer or agribusiness entrepreneur.
To many, abandoning the thrills of modelling to indulge in the tedious routine of ploughing, planting, spraying, watering and harvesting crops is a rearward step on the social ladder. Yet, that is exactly what Flora, a Kenyan married to a Swede, did and she treasures it. And it was not because she believed her new occupation would earn her more than what she had pocketed while gracing the catwalks from the tender age of 19, but because she had a conviction that it was the right thing to do.
And so far, this conviction is being proven right beyond her imagination. Besides being the right thing to do, it is now bringing in handsome returns. From the reaches of her 29-acre farm, in a fairly remote area of Kajiado County, past Kiserian Township right into the heart of Isinya, this superfarmer is churning out high quality produce with a touch of class.
From only seven acres, her produce graces the shelves of high-end retail stores and supermarkets, and rakes in tens of thousands of shillings.
Currently, she is servicing daily orders in 10s of thousands Kenya shillings to a number of prominent vegetable retail outlets, one of which is located at the brand new Two Rivers Mall, in Nairobi, the largest such a facility in East and Central Africa.
However, it has not been a walk in the park for her, but who could have shut the door on her with the right produce, the right quality, sheer determination, hard work and confidence? And it is thanks, too, to her marketing prowess, her farm ethics and business acumen.
The Smart Farmer team could not resist visiting this glamorous modelling career, or quietly settling down in Sweden to enjoy the retirement benefits of her engineer husband without breaking a sweat, but chose to come and farm in Kenya.
“I have visited 33 countries and lived in eight of them. But running this farm, I have realised that everybody has a reason why they were born and I found mine. I am impacting on ordinary people’s lives and this has made me one of the happiest women in the world. I would never trade this for anything” she told Smart Farmer.
Driving along the earth road to Flora’s farm, the area is so dry that we couldn’t help asking ourselves how this parched countryside could support commercial farming. But vast patches of grassland line the sides of the narrow road, and a variety of acacia trees dot the terrain.
We got to the farm gate, just as we were beginning to worry that we might have got lost. Even mobile phone connection out here is a challenge. The huge black gate swings open and suddenly we are greeted by the sight of a farm blossoming with lush green vegetables.
A few metres from the gate are huge white bulb onions that are almost ready for harvesting. On closer inspection, we see a large variety of vegetables planted in neat rows. Flora is supervising and working with her employees as we are an hour late.
We later learnt that this mother of two, who is approaching her mid-40s, really values punctuality – she was at the farm by 7am to clear most of the work and spare some two hours late in the afternoon for our interview. She normally wakes up at 5am, prepares herself and leaves her Runda home on Nairobi’s western outskirts to reach the farm on the east of the capital. Most of the time, 7am finds her already on the farm.
At 8am when her 10 employees arrive, they always find her there. Today, she has been working with two of her eight employees, harvesting courgettes for the next day’s orders. “These little things need to be harvested every other day, otherwise they get spoilt,” she explains, as she strides towards us for a warm greeting.
“Those are yours to take home,” she says, pointing at some white-coloured pumpkins in a Land Rover parked nearby. The interview has already begun as she walks us through the seven-acre farm under cultivation.
A touch of fashion and class The Svensson farm has about 40 different types of plants, ranging from sweet melon, baby corn, butternut, tomatoes, okra, leeks, onions, kales and herbs such as coriander, and parsley to fennel, among others. This is because her market prefers to get most of their different types of produce from the same source.
The farm is divided into blocks, making it easier to know what is planted where. Vegetables are grown on a raised bed, while in between the rows she has planted maize to act as wind breakers. Each row is properly labelled, indicating the date of planting and expected date of harvesting.
“Division makes it easy to give instructions when far away from the farm and also for monitoring which block needs weeding or spraying,” she says. Looking at the rows of different vegetables, one cannot help but notice how neat the farm is, an indication that she still retains her sense of style, learnt from her 10 years of modelling.
“It looks beautiful from the top and when potential buyers come to the farm they never fail to be impressed,” she says.
Water management Water is sourced from a borehole and feeds into a tank and into an impressive drip irrigation system with a series of taps to control water flow to the different blocks. This makes it possible to water only what is essential, thus saving on water, electricity and labour.
Flora trains her workers on proper spraying techniques and is very particular about Good Agricultural Practices (GAP).
“I only sell what I can also consume and no spraying is carried out during harvesting,” she says. She picks up her phone and on the other side is her 17-year-old son, who wants to confirm whether his mother will take time off to spend the weekend with the family in Mombasa. “He has been looking forward to this for the last two years,” says the farmer, who speaking in Swedish, assures her son that they will soon be heading to the coast for the well-deserved break.
In the sorting and packing room, a large square building still under construction, harvested vegetables are packed into crates for transportation to her Runda home, where she weighs and packs them to be supplied by 6.30, the following morning. Sometimes her daughter, aged 22, and her son, assist in the packing.
At times, she says, she works until 3am and has only three hours of sleep. How it all started Flora started farming two years ago after her husband left his job as the director of a multinational company. With his terminal benefits, the couple decided to settle in Kenya. They bought a house in Nairobi, and Flora decided to try growing some vegetables for home consumption on an eighth of their land in Kiserian. It was during these attempts that she realised that she could do more. She was producing more than her family was consuming and started selling the excess.

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