Steve Zwinger's Prairie Seeds sits near Sykeston, ND, in the central part of state known as the drift prairie region. Steve began farming in 2000 and stewards a total of 320 acres, including 12 tillable acres for seed, vegetables and soil building cover crops, 283 acres of hay and 25 acres wildlife habitat—all certified organic. His seed crops include peas, beans, flour corn, popcorn, cilantro, emmer, rye and oats, while vegetables include potatoes, garlic, carrots, onions, beans, peas, lettuce, kale, Swiss chard, broccoli, tomatoes, winter squash, zucchini and cucumbers.
Steve grew up on a grain farm and began working in the fields since he was 12, so he's had an interest in farming since he was a young boy. "The land I farm is land my parents purchased in 1940. It is important to me to carry on farming the land my father and mother started on almost 75 years ago. It is like saving seeds for future generations, to carry on tradition. Just as seeds are heirloom, the farm is very similar to me, it my heirloom that I will save and continue to improve for future generations. A legacy to pass on."
Realizing the demand and need for organic seed, Steve was drawn to the field. "I believe this an important area of agriculture that needs work for the future of organic. With limited acreage, I needed higher value crops. Facing limited markets for fresh vegetables I needed to diversify markets," he explains. He was drawn to organic agriculture believing "it's a viable way to farm, food raised organically is better and soil health is better." He also sees it as more sustainable, since organic systems often reduce the amount and type of purchased inputs.
Steve thrives on producing quality seed lots that help others farm and offer something unique. He also relishes saving seed for future generations. His early experience taught him the skills for successful farming, which he's expanded using small plot research to trial and perfect many different crops across 30 years. He considers many factors in choosing his crop and seed lineup, including adaptation for his climate, familiarity growing a species and variety, uniqueness, supply limitations and function in crop rotations. Through seed saving and development, he continues to optimize his mix and offerings.
FFSC's cooperative structure and focus on organic seed drew Steve to join. He welcomes being part of an enterprise working to strengthen small farms that share common goals and beliefs, increase family farmers' market power and offer greater diversity to customers.
Seed specialties: peas, beans, flour corn, popcorn, cilantro, emmer, rye and oats.
Certified Organic by the USDA National Organic Program.