Seeding Our Food Future program helps local farm grow as a circular food business
Seb Ramirez recognized the complex environmental challenges that the world is facing and wanted to do something that had a tangible impact. Having completed a college program in sustainable agriculture and a few years of on-farm experience, Seb saw that small scale farming would be an effective way to implement solutions to these challenges. In June 2014 he and Bethany Klapwyk founded Zócalo Organics, a dynamic community farm offering ecologically grown produce and programming. Zócalo practices no-till organic farming and works to share the land and farming resources with marginalized farmers, creating new community models for ecological agriculture. To learn how to develop their business strategically, Seb participated in the Ag Innovation Accelerator program at Innovation Guelph where he received financial coaching and connected with potential investors as well as other business owners.
When Seb heard about Seeding Our Food Future through Innovation Guelph, it seemed like the natural next step to further grow Zócalo as a business. With the support of the program, Zócalo has been working to reduce waste by transitioning to reusable or compostable packaging for their salad mix. The new packaging will help expand the shelf life of their greens. As proponents for social justice aiming to increase economic value in their community, Zócalo is working on paying their employees a living wage. To connect with others who have a shared vision of community and ecological stewardship, they have been expanding their reach by developing their social media presence. Since Bethany stepped into the role of primary farm-manager in 2021, she has been setting up an incubator farm project to help others start their own farm businesses. Through this new endeavor and Seb’s participation in Provision Coalition’s R-Purpose MICRO program, they are looking forward to future circular food collaborations with like-minded business owners.
For Seb, circularity means having all the resources be cycled properly and maximized in way that does not depend on exterior inputs. Circularity is built in to farming at Zócalo Organics. When growing a product on the farm, they use whatever is left over to compost, and use those nutrients to grow more crops. This form of nutrient cycling paired with permaculture techniques and soil testing helps build the health of their soil. Seb sees opportunity for this process to occur in urban settings and urban agriculture by creating intentional places for compost and having the waste become a valuable resource. Seb consistently looks for opportunities to take action and improve on sustainable practices. By donating their unsellable vegetables to community resources, Zócalo actively limits their waste and increases access to affordable, nutritious foods. Assisting their community create meaningful connections to their food and the land while working to influence climate change, soil erosion, and social justice, Zócalo Organics is an outstanding player in Guelph-Wellington’s circular food economy.