Small-town grocery stores are the heart of rural communities, yet many face significant challenges. RSDP works closely with rural grocers across Minnesota to address their needs and provide critical resources to support them.
Zachary Paige knows how to grow things. From planting seeds to germinating good ideas, Paige has years of experience working with communities and cultivating vibrant food systems.
Paige joined the Northwest RSDP staff in January as the new sustainable food systems coordinator. He offices in the Moorhead regional office, but spends most days connecting with farmers, grocers and community leaders in the region and statewide learning about their needs and working together to create solutions that foster sustainability and resiliency.
Prior to joining RSDP, Paige worked for the White Earth community developing sustainable agricultural and traditional and healthy food access programming.
“Working with White Earth leadership to foster healthy food access and community resilience was meaningful work that influenced how I collaborate, support and grow ideas,” Paige explains. “In my RSDP role, I see an opportunity to build on this and continue to advocate for indigenous-led sustainable agriculture projects that increase healthy and traditional food access and form new partnerships.”
Paige meets weekly with NW RSDP Executive Director Shannon Stassen to coordinate their efforts. Paige’s work over the next few months will focus on programming for rural grocers and managing a statewide USDA grant piloting local foods and wholesale transportation. Stassen is already seeing the benefits of Zach’s experience and creativity in the region.
“Zach brings a tremendous amount of community and relationship-building experience to RSDP, which is critical for developing new partnerships,” explains Stassen. “His impact in this region even before joining RSDP is considerable. He launched two farming festivals and food co-op, and has served in a number of leadership positions within the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota. We are fortunate to have him on our NW RSDP team.”
A recent highlight for Paige in his new position was attending a wholesale food trade show in Bemidji with Stassen and NW Climate Corps Sustainability Coordinator Dominic Erickson. The event was attended by grocery store owners from across the region, many of whom had recently worked with the NW RSDP team to write Minnesota Department of Agriculture Good Food Access Program grants to upgrade their retail equipment.
Stassen reports, “Awards are starting to come in for the Good Food Access Program and it’s exciting to see a number of the grocers who worked closely with Zach receive this much needed funding.”
Paige has a Masters degree in plant breeding from Iowa State University and is actively involved in seed saving and open source seed production. He has a farm in Vergas, Minn., where he launched a seed company and recently built a seed house on his farm that will be used for production and education.
“Growing, cultivating and nurturing good food and healthy communities has always been important to me,” shares Paige, “doing this work with RSDP will give me an opportunity to share my experience with growers and communities in all corners of Minnesota.”
We’re excited to grow with you, Zach!