Educating emerging farmers in specialty crop production and sales through an incubator farm education program, using soil health practices

Progress report for FNC21-1292

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2021: $18,000.00
Projected End Date: 01/31/2023
Grant Recipient: Dawn2Dusk Farms
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Moses Momanyi
Dawn2Dusk Farms
Expand All

Project Information

Description of operation:

Moses Momanyi owns Dawn2Dusk farm, a 20 acre certified organic operation near Cambridge, and grows a variety of vegetables with his wife Lonya Onyancha, marketed direct at Farmers Market. He also rents 14 acres near Lino Lakes. “Kilimo” in Swahili means “Farming” and is the name of the new incubator farm project being launched to help bring more immigrants into sustainable agriculture. Moses has over a dozen years of farming experience and is a graduate of the Big River Farm. He was just selected to be on the Emerging Farmers Working Group of the MDA; he was a presenter at the Emerging Farmers Conference, the Twin Cities Metro Growers Group, and has been coaching aspiring Kenyan farmers who will be apprentices on the incubator farm. Moses will coordinate the project, and will do the outreach to other incubator farms and students, using Kilimo as a model that could be replicated.

Summary:

Moses Momanyi of Dawn2Dusk Farm and Lakisha Witter of Live Organically will design a comprehensive curriculum to provide education and on farm training-based soil health to emerging farmers who are incubating at Kilimo Minnesota, in Cambridge Minnesota. The objective of the curriculum development is to use it to replicate the incubator start up process for other immigrant farmer incubators. 

Classes will be taught by zoom, in-person (post Covid19) and on-farm skills sessions as the curriculum is developed. Kent Solberg from Sustainable Farming Association will be consultant and instructor on soil health.

This project will involve 25 apprentices signed up for a two-year training at Dawn2Dusk farm. Each will be given a pre, mid, and post training assessment to measure overall growth on knowledge on organic/sustainable practices, soil health and farm business management.  Exit interviews will assess growth and readiness to farm and identify additional learning needs. 

Two demonstration plots at Dawn2Dusk and Living Organically will be used for on-farm training, cover crop, and soil health demonstration for the apprentices to learn from. Apprentices will each have 1/4-acre plot for growing.

Curriculum and educational materials, assessment tools, soil health information, will be shared widely with other non-profits and prospective incubator farms. 

Project Objectives:

Kilimo is a new incubator farm that provides educational training, on site field skill sessions, and mentorship to 25 East African farmers through a two year program. The project is created to be replicable with other newly emerging incubator farms.

  1. Create a curriculum and educational materials for use with 25 participating farmers at Kilimo in the areas of: organic/ sustainable practices, soil health and fertility management, farm finances, insect, disease and weed management, direct and wholesale marketing.
  2. Prepare and share materials and curriculum with prospective emerging farmer incubators, community interns, allied organizations, and online.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Dr. Lakisha Witter - Producer
  • Kent Solberg (Educator)

Research

Materials and methods:

Participants (apprentices) will be given pre-assessment measures created by Lakisha Witter, that will gather baseline data on their knowledge on organic and sustainable practices, soil health and fertility, farm finances, insect, disease, and weed management, direct and wholesale marketing.  These tools will be given to apprentices at mid-point and at the end (post) to measure  overall growth.  Apprentices will also have an exit interview to assess growth and readiness to start their farm and additional learning needs.  

Two demonstration plots of 1/4 acre will be used at both Dawn2Dusk and Living Organically for on farm training, cover crop and soil health demonstration. Apprentices are given a 1/4 acre plot for growing, must be on farm for 15 hours per week during the growing season for training and to work their plots, are required to attend 25 online classes throughout the year (50 over 2 years),  and sign up for 2 markets (farmers market, schools, wholesale). 

Moses Momanyi and Lakisha Witter will design a comprehensive curriculum drawn from Cornell University(Small Farm Program); the UMN,( organic vegetable production, food safety); University of California(Farm Direct Marketing,Viability); Tufts University (New Entry Sustainable Farming Project); Big River Farm (Farmer Education Program); Land Stewardship Project( Farm Beginning Program).  Kent Solberg (SFA) will provide education and on farm training on soil health, cover crops and will assess for livestock integration, with 2 on site classes in year 1, and 1 in year 2, offering support  on the use of  soil health, cover crops and fertility practices.

Apprentices will do peer based learning and receive one-on-one technical assistance and mentorship to plant, cultivate and harvest their 1/4 acre demonstration fields. 

Outreach:  Pre-post test assessments results, market sign ups, curriculum and educational materials, and a summary of the components of the incubator farm program will be shared (see Outreach).

 

 

Participation Summary
23 Farmers participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

11 Consultations
2 On-farm demonstrations
20 Online trainings
7 Tours
1 Webinars / talks / presentations
2 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

27 Farmers
1 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

Consultations

  • Consulted Kent Solberg twice on soil health curriculum - 4 times
  • Consulted Dr. Lakisha Witter on whole curriculum development - 7 times
  • Read 4 scholarly articles on curriculum development from websites 

On-farm demonstrations

  • Planted cover crops - winter rye between August and November 2021 on 13 farmers' plots in Cambridge
  • Planted cover crop (winter rye) in November 2021 on 8 farmers' plots in Lino Lakes

Online trainings

  • Conducted 13 one to one mentoring through zoom covering the importance of cover cropping, soil heath and business planning
  • Conducted 8 zoom classes ; 2 organic/ sustainable practices classes, 2 soil health and fertility management,  1 insect, 1 disease and 1 weed management, 1 direct and wholesale marketing.

Tours

  • 27 people
    • groups
      • slow food - 5,
      • Lakewinds - 6,
    • individuals - 16

Webinars, talks and presentations

  • Talked about farmer training, mentioned grant project at a MOSES Farmer - U held October 29-30, 2021 in Willow River, Minnesota - 35 people attended

Workshop / field days

  • 1 Soil health field day conducted by Kent Solberg- 7 farmers attended.
  • 1 farm tour with cover crop and soil health - 21 farmers from (Kilimo, Big River Farms, Somali American Initiative, and other farmers )
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.