TEAM

VILICUS FARMS | HILL COUNTY, MT

We are proud to work with growing network of partners in the movement to transform impact investing and agriculture.

Tera Johnson

Chief Executive Officer

About Tera

Tera Johnson is a serial entrepreneur whose mission is to create the next generation of resilient food and farming businesses. The founder of teraswhey®, Tera participated in the full arc of creating and selling a successful investor-financed food company. As the founder of the Food Finance Institute (FFI) and Edible-Alpha® at the University of Wisconsin System prior to joining Iroquois Valley, Tera was a frequent speaker, teacher and financial consultant to sustainable food and farming businesses, social venture funds and investors.

FFI’s mission is to get every food company and value-added farm enterprise the money they need to grow. FFI does this though a variety of programs that are national in scope and address the critical business model and financial issues faced when raising money. They include boot camps for entrepreneurs and economic developers, the FaBCap Accelerator for Wisconsin food brands, consultant training, and technical assistance for debt and equity raises. FFI’s digital presence, Edible-Alpha®, includes a podcast with wide national reach, a digital learning platform, and the Edible-Alpha, Live! event.

Formerly the Board President of Slow Money Wisconsin, Tera currently sits on the selection committee for the Nutrition Capital Network and on other corporate boards. In 2017, Tera received the UW Extension chancellor’s 2017 Wisconsin Idea Award. In 2014, Madison Magazine recognized her on their M-List of leading innovators in the city. Her business was named the 2010 Innovator of the Year by WEDC. Also in 2010, she received the Dairy Business Innovation Center’s Innovation Zone Award and the Wisconsin Department of Commerce and the WEN network named her company a Wisconsin Company to Watch. Her factory received the 2009 gold medal in the Green Building category from the Associated Builders and Contractors of WI.

Mark Schindel - CFO

Mark Schindel

Chief Financial & Investment Officer

About Mark

As Chief Financial and Investment Officer, Mark has responsibility for financial systems and reporting, budgeting and forecasting, reviewing new funding opportunities, monitoring and tracking the investment portfolio, and evaluating new deals. Mark sees Iroquois Valley as a great vehicle for improving the health of the planet and raising awareness of the multitude of benefits achieved through farming organically. And with farmers in his family, the company’s mission is a personal one.

Mr. Schindel received his BS in Finance from the University of Illinois, and his MBA from Northwestern’s J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management. Before joining Iroquois Valley, Mark spent most of his career in the private equity business; and as a financial consultant and private investor. Mr. Schindel lives in Chicago, and enjoys tennis, downhill skiing, and hiking around the world.

Arnold Lau - COO

Arnold Lau

Chief Operating Officer

About Arnold

Arnold (“Arnie”) has several areas of responsibility including multi-year budget modeling, long-term planning for the company and evaluating new business/geographic opportunities as well as management of specific programs including the Young Farmer Land Access Program and a farmland ownership transition program. He also monitors and evaluates developments in such areas as climate change and the environment, capital markets, regulation, and technology for factors that may have long-term implications for the Company and its farmers. Arnie reports directly to the CEO; and coordinates his duties with the CFO and Managing Director of Business Operations. Arnie also supports development of offering materials, investment sales and investor relations.

Arnie has a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics and Economics from Lawrence University, and a Masters of Management from Northwestern University. He was previously a member of the Chicago Board Options Exchange from 1983 until 1999, and a member of the Chicago Board of Trade from 1985 until 2007. He is a life member of the Sierra Club and the Nature Conservancy.

Fany Bortolin - Senior Vice President

Fany Bortolin

SVP, Innovation

About Fany

As SVP, Secured Lending, Fany is responsible for managing organic farming lines of credit and creating tailored business and regenerative plans aimed to improve financial and environmental sustainability.

Fany has a Bachelors degree and Masters in Accounting and Financial Management and an additional BA in Social Psychology. Her strengths lie in driving financial & operational improvements in both growth & challenging economic environments, as well as creating environments that fosters engagement, commitment, and collaboration.

Her uncompromising commitment to environmental issues, organic farming, and health brought her to join Iroquois Valley in 2019.

Susan Stenander - SVP, Strategic Planning

Susan Stenander

SVP, Marketing

About Susan

At Iroquois Valley, Susan’s work centers around marketing and strategic planning. Susan is passionate about sustainability, and brings experience as an entrepreneur and investor. Previously, Susan spent 13 years at Henry Crown & Company where she worked in its corporate development group. During that time, she wrote the business plan for a successful commercial composting business that sparked her interest in building profitable businesses, at scale, with social impact. Susan started her career at Arthur Andersen LLP. Susan received her undergraduate degree from Drake University in Accounting and Finance and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Susan lives in Evanston where she enjoys cooking, documentaries and urban gardening.

sunflower with bee and sky

Donna Holmes

VP, Investor Relations

About Donna

In Donna’s role at Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT, she shares the Company’s vision and investment strategy with investors and prospects. She is responsible for expanding our investor base by building a community of like-minded investors. Donna is passionate about creating an opportunity for all people to reap the health benefits of nutritional food, grown in a sustainable and socially just society. Using her knowledge of finance and investing, Donna structures investment vehicles to address investors’ different needs and goals. She believes in Iroquois Valley’s triple bottom line principles, actively securing social, environmental, and financial returns for our investors.

Prior to joining Iroquois Valley, Donna served in business development and investor relations roles at three alternative asset management firms. Before working in finance, she practiced law, specializing in tax and ERISA matters.

Donna earned a Bachelor of Science in accounting from Syracuse University, a Juris Doctorate from Syracuse University, College of Law, and a Master of Law in Taxation from New York University. She is a CAIA Charter-holder and an FSA Level 1 Certificate Holder.

About Claire Mesesan

Claire Mesesan

VP, Farmer Relations

About Claire

Claire serves as VP, Farmer Relations where her work centers on process, program development, and resource-building. She is broadly focused on Iroquois Valley’s farmer-facing work to ensure that partnerships are successful. Claire also works on impact strategy, evaluation, and reporting in support of the company’s efforts to create public benefit.

Claire joined Iroquois Valley in 2015 as Communications Director where she created mission-driven, data-informed content across platforms. Claire gravitated toward stakeholder engagement as she connected with farmers to tell their stories, which led to her transition to farmer relations in 2021. 

Claire completed her bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and French from Loyola University Chicago. Within philosophy, Claire was interested in the ways that land stewardship and land-based ethics intersect with social and political movements. After graduation, she spent a year in Madison, WI working as an AmeriCorps Farm-to-School educator. Claire lives in southern California where she enjoys gardening and all things outdoors, especially camping. 

About Lacey

Lacey Benz

Investment Coordinator

About Lacey

Growing up on a farm in southern Minnesota, Lacey couldn’t wait to trade in the cornfields and cattle pastures for the hustle and bustle of a big city. After graduating with a degree in Economics and Finance, she achieved her goal and spent one year as an analyst at JPMorgan in New York City. Missing the wide open spaces of the Midwest and discovering her passion for organic and regenerative agriculture, Lacey moved back to the Corn Belt and joined the Iroquois Valley team in 2020 as Investment Coordinator.

In this role, Lacey manages the investment process for the equity and debt issued by the company. She loves to brainstorm new ways to make the systems more efficient, streamlined, and organized… all while helping the firm grow its capital base. When she isn’t working at Iroquois Valley or helping out on her family farm, Lacey enjoys gardening, practicing yoga, and traveling.

Butterfly photo

Laura Temple Wesley

Staff Accountant

About Laura

Laura has been a Staff Accountant with Iroquois Valley since 2021. 

About Raya

Raya Carr

Relationship Manager

About Raya

Raya joins Iroquois Valley’s team with more than two decades of exposure to organic & diversified farming through the midwestern seasons of North-Central Illinois. Raya grew up a shepherdess and farmhand on Mint Creek, her family’s farm, and transitioned into a management capacity in 2010, continuing in this for 8 years. Raya successfully completed the 2015 Good Food Business Accelerator Program by Family Farmed, and holds a liberal arts degree with great distinction from Shimer College. Raya sees natural continuity from working in organic farming to working with Iroquois Valley. On her family’s farm, Raya witnesses how organic, regenerative farming can work to heal the whole farm ecosystem–not just the land, but the animals and people involved, too.  On a larger scale, Raya is excited to support farmers across the U.S. as a relationship manager and farmer liaison for Iroquois Valley, helping organic farmers get the financing & land access tools they need to thrive.

On weekends, Raya still organizes a seasonal farm dinner & tour series as well as other projects for her family’s farm. When she can find time, she writes poetry & lyrics, sings, and plays folk music on the guitar.

About Meg Santisi

Meg Santisi

Office Manager

About Meg

Meg has a background in non-profit development, working on behalf of art and ecology non-profits. Currently she fundraises on behalf of two artist residency programs: ACRE Residency, located in the Driftless Region of WI, and Ox-Bow School of Art, an 100+ year old residency located on a 112 acre conservation easement in Western Michigan. Prior to this, Meg worked in programming for the Graham Foundation, the Chicago Architecture Biennial, and as Sales Manager for Mint Creek Farm, where she managed on-site farm dinners and Mint Creek’s CSA program. She holds an MA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where her studies focused on the intersection of art, ecology, and architecture. She is very pleased to be working with the incredible folks at Iroquois Valley.

Photo of Alyssa Scher

Alyssa Scher

Underwriter

About Alyssa

Alyssa has a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Ball State University with a background in agriculture taxation and bookkeeping as well as farm succession planning. She joined the IQVF team in 2020 as an underwriter. Alyssa loves working with farmers to help them have the opportunity to live out their dreams and mission. She lives in northern Indiana with her husband and two children on their 4th generation family farm.

Board of Directors

  • Stephen P. Rivard, M.D.

    Board Co-Chair, Co-Founder, and Corporate “Medical Director”

    Dr. Rivard has a long history of entrepreneurship in the medical and health field. After earning his undergraduate and medical degrees from Loyola University of Chicago, he began a practice in the newest medical specialty of the time, emergency medicine. After 26 years – and having raised two children — he changed careers and founded Illinois Vein Specialists in Illinois in 2008, another growing medical specialty business. He also began diversifying his investments to focus on health and organic farmland.  His interest in organic farming goes beyond profit. It also includes the mission of creating a more socially conscious and sustainable future for his children. Dr. Rivard is now reaching out to other physicians and health care professionals to bring attention to the varied health illnesses associated with our current food production system. Specifically, he is concerned about the growth of Type 2 diabetes, food allergies and various cancer incidences that may be associated with our food choices. He views investing in Iroquois Valley as a chance to both reclaim our health and sustainably grow capital.

  • Andy Ambriole

    Stockholder, Board Director, Farmer/Tenant

    Mr. Ambriole, his wife, and his parents farm around 1,800 acres in Huntington County, Indiana near Ft. Wayne. Mr. Ambriole is the first farmer to join the Board and brings a wealth of experience and energy to the group. Currently, he farms 500 acres of certified organic land, half owned and half leased. An additional 300 acres of farmland is being transitioned to organic certification, including the Company’s Old Oak and Sparta Woods farms. Mr. Ambriole is an active user of cover crops (rye grass, buckwheat, oats, oil seed radishes and clovers) and has a custom cover crop seeding business, along with an organic fertilizer business using on-farm earthworm production. Along with the typical grain crops, he also grows organic greenhouse tomatoes and raises Nubian goats for local cheese production.

    Mr. Ambriole was awarded Indiana State Star Farmer in 2008 and Huntington County Conservation Farmer in 2010. He is a Supervisor on the Huntington County Soil & Water Conservation Board and a member of the Organic Valley Grower Pool.

  • Anna Jones-Crabtree

    Stockholder, Board Director, Farmer/Tenant

    Anna and her husband Doug own and manage Vilicus Farms, a first generation, organic, 13,000-acre dryland crop farm in Northern Hill County, Montana growing a diverse array of organic heirloom and specialty grain, pulse, oilseed and broadleaf crops under five and seven-year rotations. In thirteen seasons, Vilicus Farms grew from 1,280 acres to be a nationally recognized farm by using USDA’s beginning farmer programs, employing extensive conservation practices, and fostering unique risk sharing relationships with food companies and land investment firms. With over 26% of their land in non-crop conservation and 400 acres seeded to native pollinator habitat Vilicus Farms became Bee Better certified in 2019, Real Organic Project Certified in 2019 and has been transitioning towards Demeter Biodynamic certification.

    Anna is a Donella Meadows Leadership Fellow and a recipient of the White House Greening Government Sustainability Hero Award. She holds a Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering with a minor in Sustainable Systems from Georgia Institute of Technology. Anna served on the USDA Secretary’s Advisory Council on Beginning Farmers & Ranchers. She currently serves on the Xerces Society Bee Better Advisory Board and on Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT’s Investment Committee.  Given the realities of farming Anna still has an off-farm job with the USDA Forest Service. After several decades fostering more sustainable operations she is now currently serving as the Director for Data Governance for the Northern Region.

    Anna, Doug, and their three Jack Russell Terriers are avid members of the Lentil Underground (http://lentilunderground.com/).

  • Arnold Lau

    Stockholder, Board Director

    Mr. Lau is an independent securities and commodities trader. He was previously a market maker on the Chicago Board Options Exchange for 16 years and has been a member of the Chicago Board of Trade for 20 years. He holds degrees from Lawrence University and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. Born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, Mr. Lau is a life member of the Nature Conservancy and the Sierra Club, and since 2010 has co-managed Two Roads Farm LLC, a 320 acre organic farm in central Illinois.

  • Joseph Mantoan

    Stockholder, Board Director

    Mr. Mantoan is an advocate for ecological farming and farmland preservation. Mr. Mantoan was a managing partner at Accenture and consultant during his 30-year career in business. Mr. Mantoan served on the board of the United Way of Greater Milwaukee for twelve years and on the board of Wellspring Organic Farm for six years. He has served as a member of the Company’s Board since 2019. He received his BA and MA in Accounting from the University of Illinois.

    Mr. Mantoan grew up in the farming community of Kankakee County, Illinois. Along with his siblings, he is a co-owner of his family’s 100-acre certified organic crop farm in Kankakee County. Mr. Mantoan and his wife also own 200 acres of certified organic farmland in Washington County, Wisconsin. The farm is managed by his son, who is raising livestock on pasture and using permaculture methods to grow perennial crops. Mr. Mantoan resides in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin.

  • Malaika Maphalala

    Financial Advisor, Board Director

    Malaika Maphalala is a Private Wealth Advisor and Partner at Natural Investments LLC, a national SEC registered Investment Advisory firm that has specialized in exclusively socially and environmentally responsible investments for over 30 years. A lifelong advocate for social change, Malaika is driven by a passion for finding innovative approaches to bringing people and resources together to address social and environmental complexities.

    In her role as Wealth Advisor, Malaika provides portfolio management and financial planning for high-net-worth individuals, families, and institutions across the country that want to use their wealth as a tool to transform society and economic systems using humane, restorative, and ecological principles as the guide. She specializes in Regenerative Investing, which is investment that directly supports the regenerative capacity of communities and ecosystems. Her areas of special interest and expertise encompass investments in sustainable agriculture, community development, clean and renewable energy, cooperative businesses, and microfinance.

    Malaika received her BA from the Johnston Center for Integrative Studies at the University of Redlands and she holds a Certified Private Wealth Advisor® designation from the Investments and Wealth Institute in conjunction with the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

    She currently lives full time on the island of Hawaii, her home for almost 25 years, where she and her family tend and enjoy their beloved, rural, solar-powered, organic farm and homestead.

  • David E. Miller

    Stockholder, Board Co-Chair, Co-Founder

    After a 30-year career in corporate finance and real estate, Mr. Miller returned to his native Illinois landscape in 2005 by purchasing a 10 acre farm from a family estate of his relatives. Keeping the farm in the family, he re-connected with local relatives and friends farming organically. In 2007, he co-founded Iroquois Valley Farms LLC to enable a new generation of farmers and investors to support healthy food production. Mr. Miller is currently CEO and President of the Company.

    Prior to developing sustainable farmland ventures, Mr. Miller held executive positions at Bank of America, Santa Fe Southern Pacific and First Chicago Corporation, including the management and oversight of large leasing portfolios. In 2008 he formed Working Farms Capital, an entity seeding new ventures in sustainable agriculture while providing transitional farm management services.

    Mr. Miller is a 1975 graduate of Loyola University of Chicago, and a 1978 graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business. Mr. Miller views education as the primary key to changing the health and economics of our current food production systems. In that capacity, Mr. Miller is a founding member of the advisory board for Loyola University’s Institute of Environmental Sustainability and is a recipient of the Institute’s first Damen Award, recognizing his services related to positive environmental change. Mr. Miller resides in Winnetka, Illinois with his wife and family. He continues to restore his small organic farm in Iroquois County, a family heritage since 1875, now being transitioned to native prairie and permaculture production.

    Mr. Miller is a co-founder of Iroquois Valley and served as its Chief Executive Officer from its founding in 2007 through September 2021. 

  • Tera Johnson

    Board Director, Chief Executive Officer

    Tera Johnson is a serial entrepreneur whose mission is to create the next generation of resilient food and farming businesses. The founder of teraswhey®, Tera participated in the full arc of creating and selling a successful investor-financed food company. Now the founder of the Food Finance Institute (FFI) and Edible-Alpha® at the University of Wisconsin System, Tera is a frequent speaker, teacher and financial consultant to sustainable food and farming businesses, social venture funds and investors.

    Formerly the Board President of Slow Money Wisconsin, she currently sits on the selection committee for the Nutrition Capital Network and on other corporate boards. In 2017, Tera received the UW Extension chancellor’s 2017 Wisconsin Idea Award. In 2014, Madison Magazine recognized her on their M-List of leading innovators in the city. Her business was named the 2010 Innovator of the Year by WEDC. Also in 2010, she received the Dairy Business Innovation Center’s Innovation Zone Award and the Wisconsin Department of Commerce and the WEN network named her company a Wisconsin Company to Watch. Her factory received the 2009 gold medal in the Green Building category from the Associated Builders and Contractors of WI.

  • Dorothy D (“D.D.”) Burlin

    Stockholder, Board Director

    D.D. is private investor and former attorney. She is an advocate for local, sustainable, organic, and regeneratively grown foods, with particular interest in creative uses of capital to fund the large-scale expansion of this sector. She is a co-founder (2011) and continuing member of the Sustainable Local Food Investment Group (SLoFIG), a 30-member, mission-based, angel investor network based in Chicago, Illinois. From 2010 through 2014, she was an investor in Two Roads Farm LLC, a single-farm investment partnership founded by David Miller and Dr. Stephen Rivard which merged with Iroquois Valley Farms LLC in 2014.

    As an attorney from 1992 to 2007, D.D. was licensed with the Illinois and Missouri bars, and licensed to practice before federal courts in several districts and circuits. Her work included extensive criminal law practice. Her academic credentials include a BA from Dartmouth College and a JD from Georgetown University.
    D.D. and her husband, Johannes, have two sons, and reside in Chicago, Illinois. They also have a small farm near Reeseville, Wisconsin. D.D. is active in non-profit and political fundraising, and is a long-time member of the Board of Directors of the American Youth Foundation.

Events

Iroquois Valley presented at the 2021 Regenerative Food Systems Investment Forum

October 8, 2021
The 2021 Regenerative Food Systems Investment (RFSI) Forum was held September 28-29 in Oakland, CA, and we were honored to have two of our staff members present at the conference. The RFSI Forum catalyzes conversation, advances education, and drives increased investment in regenerative agriculture and food, and attendees include global stakeholders that are committed to transforming our food system.

News

Iroquois Valley recognized as 2021 Best for the World B Corp

August 18, 2021
Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT, PBC is proud to announce our recognition as a Best for the World B Corp: Governance for 2021. This award honors Iroquois Valley for our exemplary governance and commitment to long-term stakeholder-minded business practices.

What We're Reading

Iroquois Valley joins Will County, IL farm alliance to improve soil health, water quality and local economies

August 20, 2021
We need a regional agricultural food, nutrition and conservation business plan that incentivizes farmers to continue producing economic, environmental and social benefits for another 100 years.  

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