From Liberian Civil War to American Shores
Nate and Vicky Zondo were born in Liberia, Africa and are African immigrants planning to give back to MN urban youth. Both were raised on family farms and worked as “farmhands”. Liberia is a country that was racked by civil war for many years. During what is known as the First Liberian Civil War (1989-1997) Nate was able with the help of an American Christian community to flee the country and come to the United States. He was a teenager at the time and had already spent time on the battlefield. During what is known as the Second Liberian Civil War (1999-2003) Vicky was moved to a refugee camp in Ivory Coast before gaining entrance to the United States in 2002.
Getting A Start in the Land of Opportunity
Upon reaching U.S. soil Nate was eager to start in the land of opportunity so he immediately found employment with various jobs including coal mining in eastern Montana and with a traveling outfit that specialized in waterproofing basements. He eventually enrolled at the Tess College of Technology in Maryland where he earned credentials as an IT network troubleshooter. He has worked full time in that profession for many years and still does so on a freelance basis. Nate gained U.S. citizenship in 2000.
Earning Accreditation as a Certified Nurses Assistant
For her part, Vicky began by working in a restaurant and within a year enrolled in a program sponsored by the state of Minnesota and earned accreditation as a Certified Nurses Assistant. She has worked in that field ever since and continues to do so full time today. Vicky gained U.S. citizenship in 2010.
Chance Meeting: A Story of Fate & Love
Nate and Vicky met when Nate was in Minneapolis for a Rotary Club leadership conference. They got married and now have a family which includes their six daughters.
The Struggle to Get Established in MN
Farming is not an avocation flooded with those from the black community. Nationwide only 1.4% of more than three million farmers identify as black and in Minnesota black farmers, women and minorities account for only .003% of farm ownership. Minorities seeking financial backing can also face abnormal hurdles. After many years of saving they were able to put a down payment on a forty acre parcel near Bertha Minnesota. The property includes a sturdy four bedroom home.
Giving Back to Their Local MN Community
Nate and Vicky are patriotic Americans. They are grateful for the opportunities that have been given them here in the land of the free. They are grateful for those many people who gave of their time and energy to provide opportunity and help them along the way. As you can see, they have taken full advantage of those opportunities and have worked steadfastly to become contributing citizens. Their desire now is to give something back.
Using Farming Background to Create Opportunities
Through their endless desire to give back, Nate and Vicky plan to use their farming background to create opportunities for inner city mn urban youth in need. “Coming from farming backgrounds our dream has long been to have a working farm of our own. Our goal is to get our farm producing to the point where we can provide opportunity to others needing a hand up.”
Studies Measure Positive Impacts of Farming & Working with Soil
Many studies have been conducted measuring the impact of nature in inner city MN urban youth and its positive impact. There have also been countless scholarly case studies performed that track and measure lasting benefits MN urban youth have experienced while working in any capacity with their hands in soil, listing the countless positive life lessons.
A Home for MN Urban Youth in a Rural Setting
Nate and Vicky included early on in their “farm dream” to give back to their community by starting a home for troubled young Black men from the inner cities, providing hands on training in farming and agriculture to equip them to be responsible and productive citizens.
“Farm With Us” Program for Minorities & Immigrants
They also have developed a program for minorities and African immigrants who want to farm but do not know where to start or lack resources. In addition, their ‘Come Farm With Us’ program is a 12 months program that helps with credit building, locating property, seeking right funding, selecting in demand livestock or crops, creating a marketing strategy and offers farm business planning and management.
Beginning in the Midst of A Pandemic
Nate and Vicky and their daughters bought the farm and house just as the coronavirus pandemic was beginning. Vicky describes some of the difficulties encountered,
“Guided by our faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and trusting His Divine Providence we began last spring by buying livestock and prepping 9 acres of tillable ground to grow organic vegetables. Then COVID-19 shut down the economy affecting everyone. As a result, Nate lost his freelance tech troubleshooting work. I was able to continue in my job as a CNA to sustain the home and the farm. With limited hours our dream to farm and prepare to give back is in danger.”
The Coronavirus Comes Home to Roost
Nate and Vicky and their daughters bought the farm and house just as the coronavirus pandemic was beginning to give back to MN urban youth, but their plan was quickly derailed. Vicky contracted the virus at work and eventually it passed through the entire family. Both she and Nate spent time in the hospital and Nate was laid up for nearly eight weeks with severe COVID symptoms. Still, in their first year they have cleaned and cleared land, put up fencing, made repairs to outbuildings, and purchased a good amount of breeding livestock including cattle, pigs, goats, and chickens.
Immediate Needs for MN Farm With Us Program
They have applied to the USDA for assistance and have successfully completed the mentorship program provided through that agency. They have also applied for a grant through an organization specializing in assisting minority entrepreneurship. With spring planting season not far off there are many projects and expenses looming such as,
- Purchase used farm equipment
- stock trailer
- tractor with loader
- used box truck
- Livestock and Feed
- Remodeling one of the outbuildings to serve as a bunkhouse
40’ x 60’ Livestock barn
- 3 Full time staff
How You Can Help Inner City Youth
The most immediate way to make an impact is to donate to their Go Fund Me page. No donation is too small, and every little bit helps. Literally every dollar goes to helping Nate and Vicky further develop “The Farm With Us” program and home for inner city MN urban youth in need of positive rural experiences. If you’re interested in helping Nate and Vicky make this dream into a reality, but don’t have spare funds to contribute at the moment? There are many other easy ways to help. Following Nate and Vicky’s project on social media helps get the word out and you can always donate your time by getting in touch with Nate and Vicky on Facebook. We invite you to contact us or come visit our farm at any time. You can reach us via email, this page or at this link https://www.facebook.com/zondofamilyfarm.