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: 12/31/2023
Grant Recipient: Dawn2Dusk Farms
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Moses Momanyi
Dawn2Dusk Farms
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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 Lona h 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.


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 through 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. 

A demonstration plot at Dawn2Dusk and Living Organically will be used for on-farm training in 2021 and at Dawn2Dusk and Lino Lakes in 2022. Cover cropping and soil health demonstration will be done for the apprentices to learn from. Apprentices will each have a 1/4-acre plot for growing specialty crops.

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.


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


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
28 Farmers participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

2 Consultations
3 Journal articles
15 On-farm demonstrations
12 Online trainings
15 Tours
10 Webinars / talks / presentations
3 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

28 Farmers participated
12 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:


Consulted Dr. Lakisha Witter on whole curriculum development - 7 times

UMN Extension – Natalie Hoidal

Read 4 scholarly articles on curriculum development from websites

On-farm demonstrations

  • Soil Health Field Day Monday, May 9, 2022 at Big River Farms– shared project details with 18 people
  • July 22, 2022 – UMN students
  • October 14, 2022 – 7 Green Land Blue Water cohorts farm walk – focused on cover crops and climate smart practices.
  • 30 farmers throughout the growing season


Online trainings

  • Conducted one-to-one mentoring for more than 30 farmers.
  • Conducted virtual presentations for more than 30 farmers covering the importance of cover cropping, soil heath and business planning and more.
  • Collaborated with BRF Education (zoom): Soil Health and Fertility Time: Feb 22, 2022 05:00 PM Central Time (US and Canada) Contributed and mentioned the grant – 16 people attended


  • 29 farmers in Kilimo program visited either of the two locations.


  • Kilimo volunteer day – May 8th, 2022 – farm walk including the cover crop area, described project to 23 people (picture included)
  • USDA -FSA field day in Lino Lakes – June 5th – Cover crop demonstration and tour -53 people
  • Anoka SHIP & UMN ext - June 10th, 2022 -farm walk – Lino Lakes 2 people

Webinars, talks and presentations.

  • Moses Organic Conference Time February 25, 2022- Group discussion on Land access panel, soil health education discussed as a basic criterion – about 30 people in group
  • 1/3/22 – Sara and Robert seeking grants for their new land in Sebeka MN. Cover crop to improve soil discussed, asked to visit the demo plot in Cambridge or St. Francis – 2 people
  • SARE NSAC Fly-In: Moses Momanyi & Rep. McCollum's Office, Thursday, March 31, 2022- Presented on my project and need for SARE grant to Representative through aides. – 6 people
  • Farmer Advisory Committee (EFC) Saturday, April 2, 2022 – mentioned SARE grant, cover cropping as we were brainstorming on emerging farmers conference topics
  • UMN Food Science Farm visit planning – July 8 – 4 people
  • Naima's Farm Friday, August 19, 2022 – cover cropping discussion, mentioned SARE Grant 4 people
  • Field Day at Dan Shield's Farm Wednesday, August 24, 2022 cover cropping discussion, mentioned SARE Grant
  • Clover Bee Farm Tuesday, September 6, 2022
  • Kifah Abdis Farm Sunday, October 9, 2022
  • NRCS High tunnel @Jane W Sunday, October 23, 2022
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.