In commemoration of the 2023 International Women’s Day, FarmingFarmersFarms engaged a plantain farmer/processor, the Chief Executive Officer of YKG Farms in Lagos, Miss. Yemisi Atobatele, in a conversation about how she started her organic plantain farming and process of organic plantain flour. Sisi Elelubo, as she is fondly called, had once ventured into cassava planning, but later stuck to plantain farming. In this interview, she talks about the nitty-gritty of the role she had been playing in agriculture. Excerpts:
Can we meet you ma’am?
My name is Oluwayemisi Atobatele, a plantain farmer and flour producer. I am proudly a woman farmer, who farms to produce organic food products. I went into farming about four years ago, basically to help people live a healthier and better lifestyle.
What inspired you to venture into agric and food business? And at what point did you decide you wanted to do plantain farming?
The journey began in January 2019. I jokingly started calling myself “Sisi Elelubo”, whenever I was doing an advert for what I was doing. When I saw that people liked it, I decided to stick with it. However, the story behind is that, about two decades, I lost my dad to Type 2 Diabetes, which he was diagnosed of, in 2004. Many years later, I found myself preaching the gospel of eat healthy and stay healthy, after I discovered that many sicknesses and diseases are better prevented that cured. Presently, my mum is currently diabetic too, but we are managing it perfectly well with 90% good diet and 10% drugs; which literarily means, she is my number 1 consumer of plantain flour. Now, I wish I knew the many health benefits of unripe plantains long before now, I would have really encouraged him to feed on it, but it was already too late.
Why YKG farm? What does the abbreviation represent?
(laughs); The Y of YKG farms is actually Yemisi, which is my first name. Others are personal.
Did your school education have anything to do with your practice of agriculture now?
No, not really, and that is because I studied computer science in the university.
As a farmer/food processor, what has been your greatest joy on the job?
For me, it’s all about hearing people’s positive feedbacks.
You facilitated an online training recently where you said, agriculture is the ‘new gold’. What do you mean by that?
Actually, a lot of people haven’t tapped into the many benefits of agriculture. Agriculture is goldmine because it is the future. The fact remains that the world’s population is growing bigger, hence there will always be need for more food. In fact, in one of my posts recently, I emphatically stated that plantain farming is the new gold because if you know your onions well on the field, you will earn from literarily everything – the suckers, plantain peel, fruits, and leaves are usually means to cash-out from time to time. With the way things are generally now, I dare to say that agricultural knowledge is financial freedom.
If a youth is newly-entering the agric field, what would be your admonition for such a person? What does it take to be a farmer/food processor?
Agriculture takes a lot of hard work and determination. You, as a person, has to be focused and know what you want. Plus, be patient for agric business takes time. If you are going into plantain farming like mine, you must give it time. You can’t get all your money back after one harvest; it has to be gradual because that is its nature.
We learnt that you used to do cassava flour, but now focus on plantain farming more. Why is it like that?
Well, I do more plantain farming, because it requires less time and effort to maintain. For example, you do not have to make another set of ridges if you want to replant. Presently, I have stopped cassava farming for a long time, and I only source for my ‘garri’ now from farmers when the demand arises.
Since you started doing organic plantain flour production, has there been any worse experience for you? A day you wished you never even started at all?
Well, there are a lot of down moments, but the ‘ups’ surpass them. The down moments are usually when sales aren’t forthcoming, as expected.
What’s your customer base like? Do you only produce for Lagos?
Actually, we have like 50-100 customer base and we are still expanding. Although, I produce for everyone, my major customers are here in Lagos.
What do you think makes you stand out among other plantain flour sellers? What makes your brand different?
For me, I believe having a plantain farm is an advantage. Most plantain flour sellers usually source for, and don’t have. Not even big brands you might think of. I am directly involved in the processing of my plantain flour from start to finish. We harvest from our farm; peel, dry, grind, sieve and package. At YKG farms, we plant, dry and process and sell directly. We make sure that you don’t have boring meals by processing the unripe plantain for you. I mean, you don’t have to be eating ordinary plantain all the time; unripe plantain is not as delicious, but now, the flour is available straight from the farm, to get your meals more interesting with flour, pap, cakes, pancakes, tortillas, bread and even candies.
What future do you see for plantain farming, which you do?
In the next five years, we aim at producing over 20 tonnes/year. We are looking forward to harvesting and processing all-year-round too and to do this, we just need to keep expanding the farmland where we get our raw materials from.
Could you state briefly some of the benefits of eating unripe plantain flour?
Trust me, when I say I’m talking from experience. Eating unripe plantain actually works wonders. Some of the health challenges it deals with are; ulcer problems, diabetes, cancer, low sperm count, heart problems, weak immune system, and many more.