Kilimo Minnesota is a certified organic incubator farm in Cambridge, Minnesota with a mission to empower African immigrant farmers, socially and economically through mentorship, land access and community.
Moses Momanyi has a vision: He looks at the land and sees tillable acres, people working the land from all parts of the world, all seeking a better life in the United States. These farmers have brought with them the knowledge of many cultures as well as a hunger to learn about American agrarian lifestyle. They are intent on learning modern agricultural methods in order to create a resilient food culture in a sustainable environment. Moses sees them succeeding with the support such as Kilimo agricultural nonprofit.
Lonah Momanyi also has a vision. She sees an extended farming community family. In her vision, farm families not only work the land, they teach each others by sharing their traditions and experiences. They come together to learn about nutrition and healthy living, and create support systems for families and recent arrivals. They not only sell the fruits (and vegetables!) of their labor in community markets, but also together they develop healthy recipes and serve meals derived from local foods and many cultural roots.
Together, Moses and Lonah are making these visions a reality through Kilimo Minnesota. They both grew up in farming communities in Kenya. Moses remembers waking each morning to take care of the animals. Lonah recalls starting her days at 5 a.m. and working in the fields for seven or eight hours. Both were given an opportunity to come to the United States through an immigration lottery system, and as young adults they found themselves in Minnesota, where they met at Big River Farms, a nonprofit training program for immigrant and other emerging farmers.
As a newly arrived immigrant, Moses observed that a common path for newcomers was to settle in communities where other countrymen had settled and to take jobs that others before them had taken, often in urban centers. In this, Moses and Lonah saw a risk of losing their connection with the land and, consequently, their cultural roots. They decided to stick with farming.
Life was not easy. They toiled hard, worked extra off-farm jobs after long days in the fields and still struggled to make ends meet. And to top it all off, there were northern winters to adapt to! Friends helped when they could, and through it all, they saw challenges and opportunities but never thought of quitting.
After years of learning American farming methods and absorbing American culture, Moses and Lonah were able to secure a loan to buy twenty acres of land in 2015. The farm, aptly named Dawn2Dusk Farm, is in Cambridge, Minnesota in Isanti County, about fifty miles north of Minneapolis. The certified-organic farm is now well established. Moses and Lonah sell at multiple farmers markets and wholesale accounts in the Twin Cities.
While their feet are firmly planted in the soil at Dawn2Dusk, Moses and Lonah have an eye on the future. Their farm is now hosting 10-15 other immigrant family farmers through Kilimo Minnesota, their own incubator farm program founded in 2020. In the program, new farmers are growing crops they can sell, while receiving a daily education in American production methods and regenerative agriculture systems.
“In 2019 I was invited to Uganda to teach farmers skills I had learned while farming in the U.S., and I thought, ‘Why do I need to be in Uganda? I can do training here.’ ” – Moses Momanyi
At Kilimo Minnesota, these farmers are building on the proud history of Minnesota agriculture, drawing on and preserving traditions from their counties of origin and ensuring that their children – and generations to come – will treasure and stay connected to the land that supports us all.