Ralph Paige has dedicated his life to helping people through cooperatives. He joined the Federation of Southern Cooperatives in 1969 as a grass-roots organizer and became its Executive Director in 1985. Under his guidance the Federation has developed more than 200 units of low-income housing, 18 community credit unions, 75 cooperatives, and an award-winning rural training center. In addition, it has been the primary organization representing Black farmers and fighting the precipitous decline of minority land ownership and independence.
Paige is an inspirational leader who, although often faced with scarce resources, racism and organized resistance, has remained steadfast in his commitment to poor people and self-help through cooperatives. His passionate belief that cooperatives can empower Black family farmers and rural low-income families is evident in all that he does.
Nationally, he serves on numerous boards of directors and committees, ensuring that the voice of the poor and under served are always heard. He is a visionary and tireless advocate who never shies away from a good legislative fight, battling for the family farmer time and time again. His persistence has helped shape U.S. farm policies, and has significantly advanced the cooperative system.