Kilimo Minnesota is an organic incubator farm with a mission to empower emerging farmers of African descent, socially and economically through mentorship, farmland access navigation and community building.
Kilimo (which translates to farming in Swahili) works with Dawn2Dusk Farm, to provide the hands-on experience of crop cultivation and marketing experience, as well as business and production classes, field days at other farms, networking, and one-on-one farm business coaching.
While other incubator farms and resources exist throughout the state, Kilimo (which translates to farming in Swahili) is uniquely situated to train African immigrant farmers in a comfortable peer setting that eliminates many language and cultural barriers. Emerging farmers are able to speak their own languages; focus on culturally specific crops, farming traditions and customs; and ultimately build a supportive, community network.
Farmers participating in Kilimo Minnesota Records Keeping Workshop
Since Lonah and Moses began farming in Minnesota over 12 years ago, they noticed few, if any, other African immigrants farming and selling at farmers’ markets in Minneapolis. They observed that a common path for newcomers was to settle in communities where other countrymen had and take jobs that others before them had taken, often in urban centers. In this, we see a loss of connection with the land, cultural farming roots and ultimately a loss of access to Minnesota’s lucrative farming industry.
At the same time, the state struggles to provide equitable agricultural opportunities to all Minnesotans. According to agricultural census data in the 2020 Emerging Farmers in Minnesota Legislative Report, 99 percent of farmers in Minnesota are white, despite making up 84 percent of the state’s general population. These numbers are due to the well-documented and troublesome history of land ownership and racial bias that have created unfair, systemic barriers for emerging farmers.
The Report goes on to say, “With the average age of a Minnesota farmer at 56 years old, farm transition and succession planning are critically important for the future of the sector. Within this large-scale land transfer is an opportunity to create pathways for building wealth in historically underserved communities within Minnesota.”
With this Kilimo Minnesota, we seek to do just that. Immigrant farmers bring diverse knowledge and are intent on learning modern agricultural methods to create a resilient, sustainable food system. But this passion alone is often not enough to become a successful farmer in a new country. Training on how to grow new crops for the new climate and cultural demand, as well as guidance on safety regulations, licenses, marketing and financial practices are also critical to success. Kilimo’s hands-on mentorship program guides emerging farmers through these challenges to create their own independent farms.
In addition to empowering African immigrant farmers, Kilimo aims to build and strengthen the local organic food system, raise awareness of immigrant farmers’ role in the food system and build relationships between the African heritage and the rest of the community in which they live.
Farmers that share knowledge and support each other are often more resilient and able to face adversity together, as we have seen during challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, shifting consumer trends and more. For example, in November 2020 after a season struggling to find markets for their produce, six of Kilimo’s participants formed a growers cooperative after meeting in the training program. Together as a cooperative they has been able to apply for equipment grants, navigate land access with Agrarian Trust and sell their produce together.
While lots of community building happens naturally as farmers work and learn together, Kilimo Minnesota also facilitates farm tours, conference registration and other opportunities for exposure to growing techniques and crops not currently in practice at the incubator farm and a chance to network with other farmers. When we build a diverse community of Minnesota farmers, they not only steward the land, they teach each other by sharing their traditions and experiences.
Farmers Workshop and Training Materials
Recorded Zoom Meetings