My name is Zachary Paige, proprietor of North Circle Seeds, State and Lake Agassiz Chapter Board member for the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota (SFA of MN). I moved to Minnesota from New York in the Spring of 2012 to explore sustainable farming and seed saving in the great north. Almost immediately, I met farmers and SFA members and educators, Dr. Sue Wika and Tom Prieve of Paradox Farm within my first month. By the fall, I found myself enrolled in their one-year certification program on Sustainable Food Production along with some extremely knowledgeable and passionate educators, Kent Solberg and Ryan Pesch. Through this intensive program, supported through SFA, I met many fellow sustainable farmers who shared my passion for soil health and supporting our local food.
Attending the SFA annual conferences over the years, I met seed savers such as Greg Reynolds of Riverbend Farm, Andy Hayner of Lost Farm, Kathy Connell of Redfern Gardens and many more who have shared seed they have been saving, selecting and adapting to our short season. These individuals and so many more have become essential in the formation of the vegetable seed company I manage, North Circle Seeds. The word “Circle” in our name refers to not only the regenerative life cycle of plants. It also represents the circle of our sustainable farming community and how we sit in a circle when we gather, listening to all ideas from a diverse crowd of individuals and communities.
SFA does so much more for sustainable and organic farmers than provide meaningful and inspiring workshops and educational resources. This is an organization that at its heart cultivates a farmer-to-farmer network. Even though I wasn’t originally planning to stay, eight years later I still find myself here in Minnesota. I have met some of my best friends through this network, and owe my farming knowledge to the many hours of mentorship from these amazing, humble farming heroes who have found an organization to help cultivate the training of the next generation of farmers.
One of the biggest needs in the US right now is to pass on farmer skill to the next generation. Our farmers are getting older without an inspired youth to “buy the farm” or even know how to manage it. SFA is mentoring younger farmers in the most meaningful and inspiring way and setting us up for both holistic and economic success. Two years ago I purchased a 46-acre farm, and this year am offering over 50 varieties of Open Pollinated certified organic seed adapted to our climate’s challenges. This is in no small way due to the thoughtfulness of this wonderful organization. Please consider donating to the Sustainable Farming Association for Give to the Max and make a real difference in supporting our local food economy!