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

Final 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, the owner of Dawn2Dusk farm, operates a 20-acre certified organic farm near Cambridge, where he and his wife Lonah Onyancha cultivate a diverse range of vegetables. Their produce is directly marketed at local farmers' markets and food hubs. Moses has over a dozen years of hands-on farming experience and is a graduate of the Big River Farm, where he honed his skills and knowledge in sustainable agriculture.

In Swahili, "Kilimo" translates to "Farming," and it serves as the name and inspiration behind a new incubator farm project led by Moses. The Kilimo project is designed to facilitate the entry of immigrants into sustainable agriculture. It operates by incubating aspiring farmers for 3 years by mentoring on farm record keeping, becoming a farm business manager and building a community. Training is done on rented parcels of land in various locations, including Cambridge, Lino Lakes, Frogtown, St. Francis, and through collaborations with other farms like Sharing Our Roots, Big River Farm - Agrovoltaic, and Philadelphia Community.

As of 2023, Kilimo boasts a community of 40 farmers across the various sites mentioned. The project collaborates with local hubs to establish market channels for the farmers, ensuring that their produce reaches wider audiences and local communities.

Moreover, Kilimo has taken a significant step forward by launching the Kilimo Farmers Hub on the Open Food Network platform. This digital hub serves as a centralized platform for connecting Kilimo farmers with consumers and markets, streamlining the distribution process, and expanding their reach.

To further strengthen the Kilimo project and empower its community of farmers, Moses has overseen the recruitment of five 5 Technical Assistants. These professionals provide valuable expertise and guidance to the project, contributing to skill development and leadership within the community. Their presence enhances the support system and resources available to Kilimo farmers, ensuring their continued growth and success in sustainable agriculture.

Moses Momanyi's dedication to sustainable farming, community development, and leadership within the immigrant farming community is exemplified through his active involvement in these initiatives and his ongoing commitment to the Kilimo project's mission. 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.


For this curriculum and project, what is the problem addressed. Answer; The emergence of African farmers interested in farming in Minnesota. Most of the farmers had been farming in community gardens in the Twin Cities area for many years, growing cultural crops and not having access to guidance on how to get to the next level i.e into actual farming as a business and on how to grow the mainstream crops and raise livestock if they so wished. Cultural factors such as traditional cultivation methods and post harvest handling, structural barriers including land access, lending practices, and racism are a few examples of barriers to entry faced by emerging and immigrant farmers.

Through this grant, Moses Momanyi embarked on a mission to design a comprehensive curriculum aimed at providing education and on-farm training centered on soil health for emerging farmers incubating at Kilimo in Cambridge, Minnesota. The overarching objective of this curriculum development initiative was not only to equip the Kilimo Minnesota incubator farmers with valuable knowledge and skills but also to create a replicable model for other immigrant farmer incubators.

The curriculum delivery encompassed various modalities, including virtual classes conducted via Zoom, in-person sessions (post Covid-19), and practical on-farm skills training sessions, which were integral to the curriculum's development. The project also benefited from the expertise of Kent Solberg from the Sustainable Farming Association, who served as a consultant and instructor, particularly in the area of soil health.

Over the course of the project, 35 apprentices enrolled in a three-year training program at Kilimo MN (Dawn2Dusk Farm is now the training cosultant of  Kilimo MN), where they underwent extensive training and education. Each apprentice underwent a series of assessments, including pre-training, mid-training, and post-training assessments, to gauge their knowledge growth in organic and sustainable farming practices, soil health, and farm business management. Additionally, exit interviews were conducted to assess the apprentices' readiness and preparedness to embark on their farming journeys, identifying any additional learning needs they may have.

Practical on-farm training was facilitated through the establishment of demonstration plots initially at Dawn2Dusk Farm in Cambridge and Living Organically, and subsequent expansion to other locations. These plots served as hands-on learning platforms where apprentices had the opportunity to witness and engage in cover cropping and soil health practices, enhancing their understanding and proficiency. Each apprentice was allocated a 1/4-acre plot to cultivate specialty crops, further applying the knowledge and skills they had acquired.

The impact of this curriculum development project extended beyond Kilimo Minnesota, as the educational materials, assessment tools, soil health information, and best practices were widely shared with other non-profit organizations and prospective incubator farms. The project's reach extended to a broader audience, empowering emerging farmers and incubators with valuable insights into sustainable agriculture and soil health practices.

Overall, this project addressed the critical need for comprehensive education and training in sustainable farming practices and soil health. It not only prepared a cohort of emerging farmers for successful careers but also paved the way for the replication of this successful model in other immigrant farmer incubator programs, thereby contributing to the growth and sustainability of sustainable agriculture within immigrant communities.

Project Objectives:

Kilimo is a new incubator farm that provides educational training, on-site field skill sessions, and mentorship to 35 African immigrant farmers through a three-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 35 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:

At the beginning, participants were given pre-assessment measures created by Lakisha Witter, to 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 were given to apprentices at mid-point and at the end (post) to measure  overall growth.  Apprentices will also had an exit interview to assess growth and readiness to start their farm and additional learning needs (see skills passport template).

Two demonstration plots of 1/4 acre were used at both Dawn2Dusk and Living Organically for on-farm training at the beginning to teach cover crop and soil health demonstration. Apprentices are given a 1/4 acre plot for growing, tended their farm for 15 hours per week during the growing season for training and attendees at least 15 online classes throughout the year (50 over 3 years),  and sign up for 2 markets (farmers market, schools, wholesale). 

Moses Momanyi designed a comprehensive curriculum drawn from Cornell University's (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). Lakisha Witter was consulted. 

Kent Solberg (SFA) provided education and on-farm training on soil health, cover crops, 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 did peer based learning and received one-on-one technical assistance and mentorship to plant, cultivate and harvest from 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 were shared (see Outreach).


Research results and discussion:

The Kilimo Project embarked on a journey to empower African immigrant farmers in Minnesota, and the results achieved were measured through various key performance indicators as follows:

  1. Yield Improvement: One of the primary objectives of the project was to enhance crop yields for participating farmers. Yields were measured by comparing the production quantities of various crops before and after the Kilimo Project's intervention. Notably, the farmers demonstrated significant yield improvements, with crop outputs exceeding those achieved through community plots previously used.

  2. Income Generation: The project aimed to transform farming into a sustainable source of income for African immigrant farmers. Income levels were assessed by tracking the revenue generated from farming activities. With the adoption of modern farming techniques and diversified crop production, all farmers participating reported substantial increases in their income compared to their previous methods. This came from farming new crops and selling to new markets. Previously they were selling to family and friends. On average, first year farmers' income increased by $5,000.

  3. Land Ownership: Another noteworthy achievement was the ability of five farmers to purchase their own land. This outcome was a direct result of the project's efforts to educate farmers on financial literacy, savings, and access to financing options. It marked a significant departure from their previous reliance on community gardens and indicated the project's success in promoting economic independence.

  4. Community Building: The project measured community building by evaluating the development of networks and collaborations among the participating farmers. Kilimo facilitated interactions between African immigrant farmers and local farms, creating opportunities for knowledge exchange and resource sharing. The growth of these networks was a tangible measure of the project's success in fostering a supportive and resilient farming community.

  5. Sustainable Practices: Kilimo introduced sustainable farming practices that were compared to conventional systems used by participants previously. This was measured by analyzing data on soil health, crop rotation, pest management, and to some farmers, a change from use to no use of synthetic inputs. Results indicated improved soil quality, reduced reliance on pesticides, and enhanced environmental sustainability.

  6. Technical Assistance: The growth of the Kilimo team, from two to seven Technical Assistants, highlighted the success of the project in building human capital. Measured through the number of participants mentored and their ability to implement sustainable farming practices, this outcome demonstrated the effectiveness of the project's consultative approach.

In summary, the Kilimo Project achieved remarkable results in terms of increased crop yields, enhanced income generation, land ownership, community building, adoption of sustainable practices, and the expansion of human capital. These results were measured through quantitative data, farmer testimonials, and tangible achievements, all of which demonstrated the project's success in transforming the lives of African immigrant farmers and reshaping the landscape of farming in Minnesota.

Participation Summary
35 Farmers participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

23 Consultations
3 Journal articles
18 On-farm demonstrations
25 Online trainings
15 Tours
25 Webinars / talks / presentations
9 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

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


Consulted Dr. Lakisha Witter on whole curriculum development - 12 times

Kent Solberg - 4 times

UMN Extension – 3 Natalie Hoidal

Read 4 scholarly articles on curriculum development from websites

On-farm demonstrations

  • Soil Health presented by Kent Solberg - 10/16/23
  • 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


  • NIFTI field school conference in Kansas MO - 10/22 /23- 10/25/23
  • 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.

  • Presented at Emerging Farmer Conference - 11/4/23
  • Big River Farms Soil Health workshop  - 10/28/23
  • NIFTI Field School conference Kansas  MO -  10/24/23
  • Demonstration of cover crop in cambridge, no till to Elkanah - 10/12/23
  • Farm buds helping spread compost on beds in Cambridge, farm tour, talked about cover crop, no till and sare grant - 9/30
  • 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

Learning Outcomes

35 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Lessons Learned:

The Kilimo Farmers Training project has been a significant learning experience for both the participating farmers and the organizers. Here are some key insights and lessons learned from this grant:

  1. Community Building: One of the most profound lessons has been the power of community building in farming. Farmers have learned that collaboration and networking are essential for overcoming challenges and accessing resources. The project's success lies in its ability to create a close-knit community of farmers who support each other.

  2. Skill Enhancement: Through the training and technical assistance provided by Kilimo, farmers have significantly improved their farming skills. They have learned modern and sustainable farming practices that have increased their farm productivity and income. Overcoming the identified barrier of limited knowledge and skills has been instrumental in their success.

  3. Land Access Challenges: The project has shed light on the persistent challenge of land access for immigrant farmers. While some participants have managed to purchase their land, this issue remains a significant barrier for many. It emphasizes the need for advocacy and policy changes to address land access disparities.

  4. Cultural Balance: Balancing cultural traditions with modern farming practices has been a complex but essential learning point. Farmers have had to find ways to integrate their heritage into their farming while adopting innovative techniques. This process has been both enriching and challenging.

  5. Market Access: Farmers have learned the importance of market access and diversification. By helping them access markets and providing guidance on value-added products, Kilimo has enabled farmers to increase their income. This has been a game-changer for many participants.

  6. Advantages and Disadvantages: Implementing a project like Kilimo has its advantages and disadvantages. The advantages include enhanced skills, increased income, and the creation of a supportive community. However, disadvantages may include initial resource constraints and the need for ongoing support and training.

  7. Recommendation: To other farmers or ranchers considering a similar project, we would recommend:

    • Prioritize community building: Foster a sense of community among participants, as this support network can be invaluable.

    • Focus on education and skills: Invest in training and technical assistance to enhance participants' farming skills.

    • Advocate for policy changes: Address barriers like land access through advocacy and engagement with policymakers.

    • Promote market access: Help farmers access markets and explore value-added opportunities to boost income.

    • Balance tradition and innovation: Encourage farmers to preserve their cultural heritage while embracing modern farming practices.

In summary, the Kilimo Farmers Training project has been a transformative journey for both farmers and organizers. It has highlighted the importance of community, skills, and advocacy in overcoming barriers and achieving success in farming. The lessons learned from this project can serve as a blueprint for empowering immigrant farmers and building a sustainable farming community.

Project Outcomes

35 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
6 Grants received that built upon this project
6 New working collaborations

Information Products

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.