Steve Zwinger
Photo Credit:
NDSU file photo

Steve Zwinger announces retirement; Open House scheduled for December 1

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NDSU Organic Research Specialist Steve Zwinger has announced his retirement, with his last day at NDSU scheduled for December 1. The Carrington REC will host a reception in Steve’s honor at the CREC that afternoon, starting at 2:00 p.m. The reception is open to the public and everyone is invited to attend.

Steve Zwinger’s career in agronomy began immediately after his graduation from NDSU. Only a handful of people were employed at the NDSU Carrington Irrigation Branch Station, and the only active programs were agronomy and livestock research.

Facets of intercropping and alternative crops were favorite topics for Steve, leading to an interest in organic agriculture. In 1999, the Carrington REC began conducting organic research in farmer-cooperator fields, under Steve’s leadership.

In 2004, the CREC earmarked research plots and Steve was able to start organic trials on transitional land. From one small field in 2004, the CREC has expanded certified organic land to 16 acres.

Steve worked with the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society for many years and released a variety of hard red spring wheat, FBC Dylan, in conjunction with the NPSAS Farm Breeding Club. In 2013, the prestigious Bush Foundation awarded the 2013 Bush Prize for Community Innovation to NPSAS and sponsored a highlight video showcasing Steve’s contributions to FBC.

OTA , a cultural organization focused on connecting creative disciplines across North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota wanted to share more of Steve’s life work, and commissioned a video spotlight for their 2014 convention.

NDSU released two varieties of rye that Steve developed, ND Dylan and ND Gardner.

Along with annual forage production research, Steve has taken a particular interest in alternative crops, and is hoping to see a new buckwheat variety released soon.

Steve’s favorite project has been in re-igniting interest in the ancient grains of einkorn, emmer, and spelt, the oldest forms of wheat on the planet. Commercial culinary interests appreciate these alternative flours, boosting demand across the country.

Steve’s collaborations spanned international borders and reached across socio-political fences. Steve’s passion for ancient grains brought calls and visits from rabbis, small farmers, New York City bakeries and famous restaurants. Some of his collaborators include General Mills, Google Moonshot, Cornell University, Blue Hill Farms restaurant in New York City and their development farm, Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture, and several NGO’s including NPSAS.

Closer to home, Steve was a valued resource for organic farmers and sustainable agriculture practices across North Dakota. Privately, Steve worked with flour corn varieties and other organic and heritage seeds through Prairie Seeds. Steve is generous with his produce and time, and is especially knowledgeable about growing his favorite food, potatoes.

Carrington REC Director Mike Ostlie commented, “Steve has had a productive and impactful career at NDSU through his work on variety testing, specialty crop evaluation, forage trials, and organic research. Through his research and outreach he has been able to fill a void across NDSU that would have been otherwise vacant. His contributions to ND agriculture will be felt for quite some time.”

Steve Zwinger sums it up, “It seems like it just yesterday when I started here over 40 years ago; I can’t believe how fast it went. It has been an honor and pleasure serving ND agriculture and beyond! I want to thank NDSU and the Carrington REC for all of the opportunities over the years. I have really enjoyed working here and will truly miss it. I hope I have made a difference and have helped people along the way. It’s been a pleasure to work on the organic project and watch it grow.”

The Carrington REC will begin a search process to continue the vital work of organic and sustainable agriculture research in North Dakota. Interested individuals are encouraged to contact the Carrington REC.

Steve Zwinger can be reached on email at .

Linda Schuster
Administrative Assistant