David Mwanaka has broken new ground by becoming the first black farmer to grow white maize in the UK.
Mwanaka moved to the UK in 1991 in search of a job as journalist.
He told Business Times that some farmers associations scorned his idea to grow maize saying climatic conditions were unfavourable.
“When I was still trying to grow white maize I called a certain white gentleman who was the President of the Maize Association in the UK and he said to me, you can’t grow white maize in the UK and you are just wasting my time and he hung up on me,” he said.
“So part of the reason why I was determined is that I wanted to prove this man wrong because he did not have to hang up on me like that.”
Mwanaka went on to establish Mwanaka Fresh Farm Foods which has now diversified into various exotic products. It has, however, not been an easy road. Mwanaka only got it right after 6 years of trial and error in his backyard.
“There are quite a number of reasons that led me into farming. I grew up eating white maize back home in Zimbabwe but when I moved here there wasn’t any and I kept hoping that one day I would bump into someone selling white maize and it never happened that way.”
“After some time I thought of growing maize in my back garden like most people do in Zimbabwe but it took me six years to come up with a crop that I thought would enable me to be a commercial farmer.
Mwanaka Fresh Farm now has two stores in London and another in Birmingham and is looking to expand to different parts of the UK.
“It is still extremely difficult to get it right because one is never assured if next season will be the same as the previous one as English weather is very unpredictable. I have, however, diversified on the type of maize that I grow and I have employed a maize breeder to breed different types of maize for me,” he said.
In recognition of his milestone, the Queen of England in 2010 invited Mwanaka to Buckingham palace.
“What I would say has been the biggest recognition for me is the Queen’s invitation where I got an opportunity to talk to her and members of the royal family. Unfortunately I was not allowed to take any pictures. All I have is the invitation letter,” he said.