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Saving the seeds: Minnesota man growing his North Circle Seeds business

Zachary Paige has been working on starting North Circle Seeds for the past year, finally opening last month. He and Meg Perry operate the seed-selling business out of their home in Vergas.

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Zachary Paige and Meg Perry operate North Circle Seeds out of their home in Vergas. (Desiree Bauer / Tribune)
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VERGAS, Minn. -- One corn, two corn, red corn, blue corn ... Zachary Paige has that and more at his new business, North Circle Seeds. He offers 24 different seed varieties, including red, blue, orange and pink corns.

"We wanted to get pretty much everything," Paige said.

Paige said his goal is to help farmers grow their food sources while creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive food system.

To do that, he sells open-pollinated seeds that are grown on chemical-free farms with sustainable and organic practices. The seeds are regionally adapted, meaning that they are used to Minnesota soils and growing conditions, unlike most other seeds sold from big companies, Paige said.

When you buy from those big companies, "you have no idea what system that seed is bred in or grown in," he said. "If it's from Mexico or somewhere drastically different, the disease pressure is going to be different" along with other changes.

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The seeds that Paige sells are grown at six Minnesotan farms, four of them in the lakes area.

"I see it as a Minnesota seed collective," he said.

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There are 24 kinds of seeds Zachary Paige has for sale at North Circle Seeds. He's working on adding more varieties, such as a cucumber and broccoli seed. (Desiree Bauer / Tribune)

Years of interest

Nature, seed saving and agriculture have been Paige's interests for years. He's lived and worked in New York, Vermont and other places, trying to find the right work that immersed himself in those fields, but couldn't find something satisfying. In 2012, he moved to Minnesota to work in White Earth on land recovery projects, he said.

"I wanted to learn a native perspective and learn the difference between wild foods and cultivated foods," Paige said. "I was also kind of curious about seed saving."

A few years later, that curiosity kept growing and led to him starting North Circle Seeds. The process to starting was quick, as Paige just bought his farm last year.

Paige chose the name North Circle Seeds to "represent the location and ... the community, and then also it's kind of like a metaphor of the circle of sustainability," he said, adding that he means the circle of saving your own seeds and the circle of seed growers.

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"All small farmers, like market farmers, can probably save a few seeds," said Zachary Paige, owner of North Circle Seeds. "So that's what we’re trying to advocate for." (Desiree Bauer / Tribune)

"It's kind of in the infancy stage," he said. "I was just eager to kind of get it out there."

Even though his business is new, Paige is working on adding more farmers and products for the future.

"We've got a few (seeds) that we'll be working on adding," Paige said. "There's a lot of momentum or interest in growing broccoli for some reason."

One of his top sellers is a rare carrot, called the Early Scarlet Horn. His other top sellers are the Fortex green bean and the pinky popcorn.

"That's a Minnesota heirloom from the '40s," Paige said about the pinky popcorn. "It was bred and grown here in that time, so we're trying to bring that back."

Bringing back old and rare seeds is another aspect of the North Circle Seeds business: seed preservation. While that isn't the focus of his business, the two tend to go hand in hand.

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Paige is hoping to make the seed growing business a full-time job in the future. He has multiple events this spring, educating people on his seed saving work and teaching them how they can take small steps to do the same thing and change farming in Minnesota.

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"It's almost like Christmas when you open up the husk," said Zachary Paige, owner of North Circle Seeds, about the different types of corn seeds he sells. "They all kind of look white once they're popped." (Desiree Bauer / Tribune)

Upcoming events

North Circle Seeds in Vergas is participating in these upcoming events:

Contact info

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At Zachary Paige and Meg Perry's home, they have a room full of North Circle Seeds products. This is just one cabinet with jars of seeds. (Desiree Bauer / Tribune)

Related Topics: AGRICULTUREVERGAS
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