Increasing Capacity for Latino Farmers' Seed and Food Production with Culturally Important Crops

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2023: $29,920.00
Projected End Date: 01/31/2025
Grant Recipient: North Circle Seeds
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Zachary Paige
North Circle Seeds


  • Agronomic: corn
  • Vegetables: garlic, peppers


  • Crop Production: crop rotation, food processing, greenhouses, seed saving
  • Education and Training: extension, farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, workshop
  • Energy: solar energy
  • Farm Business Management: agricultural finance, value added
  • Production Systems: dryland farming, organic agriculture, organic certification
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil analysis, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: employment opportunities, food hubs, partnerships, quality of life, social networks

    Proposal summary:

    According to the agricultural census, Emerging Latino farmers currently make up only 650 of Minnesota’s 112,000 farmers, and according to the Emerging Farmers in Minnesota (EFM) legislative report released in February 2021, over 99% of all Minnesota farmers are white.

    Finding market opportunities as a Latino or immigrant farmer is challenging, especially for those who do not speak English or have an accent. Finding a market to sell the produce is an additional obstacle. 

    Historically, land ownership in the state of Minnesota has favored white farmers. According to the EFM report, “well documented racial bias in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant and loan programs” has supported a system that keeps land away from people of color, women or other minorities, preventing them from accumulating wealth.

    Agriculture is going to need to expand and make way for a new demographic of farmers who are younger and have an interest in selling produce different from soybeans or corn. In 2017, the average age of a U.S. farmer is 58 years old.

    Project objectives from proposal:



    Our farmer/rancher project is a research and education project focusing on increasing capacity to expand vegetable and specialty crop markets to Latino Farmers in the Shared Ground Farmers Cooperative. Both Javier Garcia and Rodrigo Cala are leaders in the Latino farming community. In Long Prairie where Javier's farm is located, there are more Latino farmers who are interested in learning more about seed production. Rodrigo Cala works with Latino farmers through the Latino Economic Development Fund and is also farming with young Latino farmers. Minnesota based organic Open Pollinated seed collective, North Circle Seeds is working intentionally with BIPOC communities. Owner Zachary Paige is 25% Latino himself and speaks some Spanish. By growing together and sharing equipment, utilizing skills and connections from each farm, we are able to better support each other where each farm both individually and collectively will benefit from working together.

    We will host Seed saving events annually at the North Circle Seeds (NCS) farm, in the newly constructed seed saving education building, see link - Zachary Paige of NCS will teach seed saving, and selection techniques to Rodrigo, Javier and ten Latino Farmers in the Shared Ground Farmers Cooperative for pepper, garlic, corn and all vegetable crops. North Circle Seeds has produced 10k garlic heads for seed for the past 8 years and will share planting and curing techniques. North Circle Seeds also began selling garlic with online sales which can be an additional market to sell garlic seed at a premium price.

    We will increase the capacity for each of our markets by increasing the amount of seed and food we can collectively produce. Rodrigo and Paige will produce more garlic and hot peppers and Javier will produce more Mexican White Corn (up to 5 acres) and hot peppers. By purchasing additional equipment such as the Agriculex corn sheller to be used on Javier's farm, drying screens on all of the farms (for curing and drying garlic, peppers and pepper seed) and a new corn planter, we will be able to demonstrate and show how this equipment has been essential to helping Latino farmers make a profit farming specialty crops, as well as Mexican white corn used for culturally important food (elote, tortillas, and tamales) for their community. The increase to produce thousands of pounds of food corn will also open the markets to restaurants as well as the Indigenous food lab located in the Global Market, Minneapolis. The increase of capacity to grow more corn will also expand the market to sell more highly valued organic white corn seed for food.

    We will utilize our partnership with University of Minnesota Extension Educator Ryan Pesch to aid us in creating our enterprise analysis surveys for seed and food products for all three farms. We will put in proposals to hold presentations at the Northern Plains Sustainable Ag Conference, the Sustainable Farming Association Annual Conference, Indigenous Farming Conference, Emerging Farming Conference and Minnesota Organic Conference as well as post our story and findings in newsletters from organizations to their members.


    • Increase Seed Saving and Seed production education with Rodrigo Cala, Javier Garcia and Latino farming community with the Shared Ground Farmer Collective and Agua Gorda Cooperative
    • Increase Seed production, market opportunity and seed resiliency to sell seed through North Circle Seeds and have seed stored on each farm
    • Expand food markets for jalapeño, ghost pepper, white corn and garlic for Latino farmers to rural grocery stores and restaurants
    • Host Demonstration education events of seed saving techniques for farmers in the North Central region
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.