Father's Farm

Driving up the gravel road leading to the 23-acre Father's Farm, visitors see a towering red barn – and historical landmark in the Wolford area – which still functions, with hay storage and shelter for animals. Photos by NDAREC/Clarice L. Kesler

Father's Farm
Father's Farm
Father's Farm

In the heart of Wolford, nestled amid the rolling fields of golden wheat and endless skies, is Father's Farm – a place where redemption grows through fortitude and faith. It is where Jonathan Freeman found a second chance at life.

Freeman, a California native, made his way to North Dakota in 2018 alongside his girlfriend, seeking one of the many job openings the state had to offer.

But opportunity was lost, when on Friday, April 13, that same year, he was arrested for selling drugs to a confidential informant in Minot. Freeman, first introduced to drugs at the vulnerable age of 16, became entangled in the cruel cycle of addiction, until one day, fate intervened. A ministry visit with Dan Slaubaugh and Cleo Yoder, the men behind Father's Farm, changed the course of his life forever.

In the name of the Father
Slaubaugh, a local pastor, his wife and the Yoders have been beacons of hope in Wolford for nearly 14 years, counseling inmates. All believe in the power of compassion, second chances and a strong faith, and they saw a need for a longer-term rehabilitation center for detained men. They involved community members and formed a board, which developed the vision for a place where men could grow in spirituality, while developing a work ethic and learning financial independence. They named this place Father’s Farm.

With community funding and a $300,000 grant from the Rural Electric and Telecommunications Development Center (operated by the state’s electric and telecommunications cooperatives), and an Operation Round Up grant from Northern Plains Electric Cooperative (the farm’s electric provider and community supporter), Father’s Farm welcomed its first resident in December 2022.

“We really try to focus on mentorship, rehabilitation and housing for men who need help and want to do it in a faith-based facility,” says Chet Yoder, the farm’s director. “We want to get them to a place where they are in the community helping people who may be in the same place that they were previously.”

Driving up the gravel road leading to the 23-acre farm, visitors see a towering red barn – and historical landmark in the Wolford area – which still functions, with hay storage and shelter for animals. The main house includes four bedrooms, a large kitchen, living room, laundry room and a spacious gym for community events, games and exercise.

A 17- by 72-foot greenhouse gives the men a chance to develop nurturing skills and grow produce for those living at the farm. Two cows and a horse add to the daily chores, with plans for small-scale crops to be grown in the future.

Laboring through daily work on the farm provides the first steps on the path to recovery. It also provides a place of tranquility – a rhythm of life set by the trill of mourning doves nestled in hundreds of swaying trees. It is a sanctuary for those seeking redemption, a place where they can mend their wounded spirits and find their life's purpose.

“It is here where they begin to gain trust again through hard work, through faith and with support – and the community here has been so supportive of this effort,” Chet says.

Since December 2022, four men have been through the program and found employment within the community, enabling them to transition to a normal life.

And of the son
“If I hadn’t met with Dan and Cleo, I would have just come back to the same mess I came from – drugs and trouble,” Freeman says.

During the 66 months he spent in prison, he stayed in contact with Slaubaugh and Cleo, after their first meeting at the Rugby jail.

“Cleo and Dan answered the phone for me almost every time I called,” Freeman says.

 They assured him upon his release on Dec. 19, 2022, he would have a place where he could begin anew.

“The Bible phrase that kept ringing in my head was, ‘You can’t put new wine into old wine skin,’ and for me that meant you’re a changed man, Jonathan. He was basically telling me I was a new creation, and I can’t go back to my old stuff, my old ways,” Freeman says.

He started working within two weeks after his arrival at Father’s Farm. After a six-month stay, he now lives on his own and works at Legacy Co-op, a grain elevator in Bisbee, working up to 70 hours a week during harvest season. Freeman says it’s a solid job with decent pay and a benefit plan.

“The people here in the community may not be my family, but they make me feel like family, and no one has treated me like I’m less than, because I’ve come out of prison,” he says.

Now sober for nearly six years, he believes his time at the farm has changed his life forever and recommends it to anyone who deserves a second chance to get back on their feet and live a peaceful country life.

Freeman and all the men who have made their way to Father’s Farm serve as a testament to their belief that through God’s power of redemption, every soul has the capacity to change.

To learn more about Father’s Farm, visit www.fathersfarmnd.org.

Clarice L. Kesler is communications manager for the N.D. Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives. She can be reached at ckesler@ndarec.com.


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