Author: Claire Mesesan

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

Iroquois Valley signed on to a letter to the editor of the Chicago Tribune in opposition to a proposed airport project. The letter is shared below. The issue was taken up by reporter, Ted Slowik, in the Daily Southtown and Chicago Tribune. Read his response here.

Northeastern Illinois boasts some of the planet’s most  fertile soils. Yet the state of Illinois has spent decades  dismissing farmland’s enduring value by pushing a misguided scheme to build a commercial airport near the village of Peotone. 

The Illinois Department of Transportation has used  threats of eminent domain to acquire — and remove from local property tax rolls — more than 4,100 acres of  farmland. This “airport footprint” is more than four times the size of Chicago’s Loop.  

Our Will County farm community is pleased others are  joining our opposition. On July 11, the Tribune Editorial  Board wrote: “The sooner public officials in Springfield and in Chicago’s southern exurbs admit the folly of the  Peotone project, the sooner that land … can be sold for farmland or dedicated to other uses”.  

The eastern Will County countryside is best suited to serve an economy based around food and agricultural  enterprises. The same goes for southwestern Will County  — where regional planners and county and local  governments want to build warehouse complexes to handle imported goods arriving at an intermodal freight  hub. 

County studies dismiss our world-class renewable resource  as “vacant land.” They claim “the greatest opportunity for  growth” is more concrete, asphalt and rooftops. This mindset has driven regional growth patterns since the  dawn of interstate highways. In recent decades, public services and infrastructure have been stretched over ever  greater distances while the regional population has barely increased.  

We don’t need more sprawl. 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.  

Taxpaying farmers deliver these same “ecosystem services”  free of charge. This is no small matter. Our region’s  agricultural working landscape constitutes a landmass almost six times the size of the city of Chicago.  

The local food movement has exposed the strategic importance of farmland near population centers. Northeastern Illinois needs a regional policy framework  that supports farmers’ access to all markets — whether down the road or around the globe. Let’s work together to  make thriving regional farm and food economies a building block of our public health infrastructure.  — Steve Warrick, Sr., Will County Farm Bureau; Jim  Robbins, Will/South Cook Soil & Water Conservation;  and Dave Miller; Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT

Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT, PBC Names Tera Johnson CEO

EVANSTON, IL – Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT, PBC announced today that Tera Johnson will succeed co-founder, David Miller, as Chief Executive Officer effective September 1, 2021. 

David Miller, co-founder. Photo first appeared in Eating Well magazine.

Johnson is the founder of the Food Finance Institute (FFI), a nonprofit organization that provides financial technical assistance to food, beverage, and value-added agriculture enterprises. Miller plans to remain on the Iroquois Valley board and will support Johnson as she assumes responsibilities, in addition to managing special projects. He looks forward to the opportunity to step back from day-to-day operations.

“As I look back on the last fifteen years, I believe we were successful in establishing a deeply rooted organic foothold in a region I characterize as a dead soil monoculture,” Miller shares. “I see Tera building on that organic foundation and going beyond. Under her guidance, we will accelerate our commitment to conservation and diversity–in our investments and in our products and programs.”

Miller, founded Iroquois Valley with his friend and former college roommate, Dr. Stephen Rivard in 2007. Miller has served as CEO since inception. Iroquois Valley is one of the first companies in North America to offer investors direct exposure to a diversified organic farmland portfolio. With independent farmers and ranchers at the heart of its investment strategy, Miller led the company as it grew from one relationship with a farming family on a single property in Iroquois County, Illinois to a $75 million portfolio representing 50 farmer relationships in 15 states.

Iroquois Valley is supported by over 500 investors in 47 states, 25% of whom are non-accredited, retail investors who committed capital after the company’s Regulation A+ offering launched in 2019. Over Miller’s fifteen years as CEO, Iroquois Valley incorporated as a real estate investment trust and public benefit corporation, received recognition as a “Best for the World” certified B Corp, and was consistently named to ImpactAssets’ IA50.

“In a time when the mission of Iroquois Valley is more important than ever,” Johnson says, “I’m humbled and inspired to build on the strong foundation that Dave and his team have built and to lead the team into the next phase of Iroquois Valley.”

Johnson built her career around her mission to create the next generation of environmentally and economically regenerative food and farming businesses. Her work at the helm of FFI saw over 600 people from over 400 organizations throughout the U.S. trained in financial management and business consulting. FFI has provided technical assistance to 230 food, farm, and food system businesses since establishment. FFI is part of the University of Wisconsin System’s Institute for Business & Entrepreneurship. Johnson also launched Edible-Alpha®, a digital resource hub providing actionable insights, training, resources and tools. Her podcast interviews with entrepreneurs, bankers, and investors have been downloaded over 45,000 times, with listeners in all 50 states and eight countries. Johnson is the founder of Simply Tera’s and is the 2017 Extension Chancellor’s Wisconsin Idea Award winner. Johnson is a frequent speaker, teacher and financial consultant to sustainable food and farming businesses, social venture funds and investors.

About Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT, PBC

Iroquois Valley is a regenerative finance company that provides land security and financial products to organic farmers by raising capital from mission-driven investors. Iroquois Valley offers long-term leases, mortgage lending, and operating lines of credit to organic and transitioning farmers and ranchers throughout the United States. The company has equity and debt investment options and works with a large network of financial advisors. www.iroquoisvalley.com

Contact: Claire Mesesan, acting communications director

(847) 859-6645 ext. 702 | cmesesan@iroquoisvalleyfarms.com

Featherstone Farm: COVID Stories

The coronavirus pandemic has put the food system in the spotlight in new ways. Our farmer partners at Featherstone Farm in Fillmore County, Minnesota share their experience navigating the pandemic as an organic vegetable operation in a video featuring three of their returning seasonal farmworkers.

Iroquois Valley provided financing to Featherstone Farm. Featherstone is the only farm entirely dedicated to vegetable production within Iroquois Valleys’ portfolio.

Iroquois Valley named to the IA 50 for the ninth year in a row

Iroquois Valley was named an Emeritus Manager by ImpactAssets in its annual IA 50. This year, ImpactAssets celebrates its tenth year curating its widely recognized list of impact investment fund managers.

According to ImpactAssets, the IA 50 is an annual showcase of companies dedicated to making impact investments, offering a gateway into the world of impact investing for investors and their financial advisors. The IA 50 offers an easy way to identify experienced and emerging impact fund managers. The IA 50 is intended to illustrate the breadth of impact fund managers operating today, though it is not a comprehensive list. Fund managers selected to the IA 50 demonstrate a wide range of impact investing activities across geographies, sectors and asset classes.

The IA 50 expanded its scope this year to include two new categories: Emerging Impact Managers to recognize newer fund managers that demonstrate potential to create meaningful impact and Emeritus Managers to highlight impact fund managers that have achieved recognition on the IA 50 for five years. Iroquois Valley is proud to be named an Emeritus Manager as a company named to the IA 50 every year since 2012. This distinction reflects our ongoing commitment to creating and reporting on the positive impacts we make through our investments.

Learn more about the IA 50 here and review the other companies named to the IA 50 here.

New Partnership Brings Tree-Range® Chicken to Americans’ Doorsteps

We recently financed the purchase of 75 acres in Rice County, MN for Reginaldo & Amy Haslett-Marroquin to establish their home farm at Salvatierra Farm. Iroquois Valley is pleased to be a key financial partner to the BIPOC farmers and others who are central to seeing Tree-Range® chicken supply chain come alive. More info to come in a future newsletter. We’re sharing their good news about a partnership with Blue Nest Beef:

NORTHFIELD, Minn., Jan. 26, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Blue Nest Beef and Regeneration Farms are proud to announce a new partnership that will change the way consumers think about chicken. Tree-Range Chicken® from Regeneration Farms is now available for purchase and delivery through Blue Nest Beef.

Tree-Range Chicken puts birds back where they belong. These slower-growth birds are raised in small flocks under a regenerative system that integrates trees and crops with poultry production.

“The natural habitat of chickens is more like a forest,” said Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin, co-founder of Regeneration Farms. “Trees provide chickens protection from predators and have several other upsides. In turn, chickens amplify nutrient cycling while providing economic and ecological benefits.”

Tree-Range Chicken’s production strategy is built on small family farms that are part of a larger collective, resulting in more prosperous livelihoods through scaling and reducing risks. The system also supports better bird health, as well as consistently better quality and taste.

Blue Nest Beef launched its growing lineup of regenerative grass-fed beef in 2019. Co-Founder and CEO Russ Conser says the partnership is a natural fit.

“The big idea of regenerative agriculture is to grow food in a way that isn’t just less bad, but that creates more good,” said Conser. “Having started with beef produced in a way to help birds, the principles of Tree-Range Chicken are the same. Both systems allow land to produce more food in a healthier way.”

Tree-Range Chicken currently comes from Minnesota farms and is processed in Minnesota. It’s available at multiple price points on Blue Nest Beef’s website, which includes free shipping on all products in the continental United States.

About Blue Nest Beef:
Blue Nest Beef is a direct-to-door meat delivery startup. Utilizing cattle raised by ranchers who are committed to preserving bird habitat, the company delivers a growing lineup of regenerative grass-fed beef products and chicken. Learn more at BlueNestBeef.com.

About Regeneration Farms:
Regeneration Farms supports a network of regionally organized producer pools and smaller family farms. Through this collective, they are transforming nature’s energy into nutritious foods that sustain the health of families and our planet. Learn more at RegenerationFarms.com.

Media Contact: Kevin Hurd
612-351-8442
Kevin@Media-Minefield.com
BlueNestBeef.com

SOURCE Blue Nest Beef

A partnership to support diverse, beginning farmers access more money

A project funded in fall 2020, led by Food Finance Institute (FFI), is on a mission to lower the risk of beginning farm investments to make them more attractive to funders. The project is funded through a $387,000, three-year Beginning Farmer Rancher Development Program grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

FFI will work with funders, investors and beginning farmers to create and provide a financial technical assistance (TA) program that will provide beginning farmers financial training and coaching to fix their business models, package a financial request, raise money and understand the financial benchmarks necessary to maintain profitability.

Project collaborators Iroquois Valley Farmland Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) of Evanston, Black Oaks Center of Chicago, the Farm Credit Council and Compeer Financial will coordinate technical assistance and track performance of 45 farmers over time, with the goal of creating a program that can be replicated across agriculture lending institutions to bring in more capital for beginning farmers and ranchers.

“I have seen the positive impact FFI’s technical assistance has on the financial viability of farms that are receiving or seeking funding from private investment funds like Iroquois Valley and lenders like Farm Credit and Compeer,” FFI Director Tera Johnson said. “This grant will allow our organizations to extend these impacts to more farmers and create a replicable program that can work for even more farmers in the future.”

The work will focus on two groups of beginning farmers. First, beginning farmers in Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT’s existing and future loan portfolio. Iroquois Valley currently has 13 beginning farmers in their portfolio and will seek to more than double that over the course of this grant. To date, Iroquois Valley have invested in over 80 farms across 15 states, impacting over 13,400 acres.

Second, those from Black Oak Center’s (BOC) farm incubator program. BOC is located in Pembroke Township, Ill., and represents a historically black farm community. Through their incubator program BOC seeks to train a new generation of beginning farmers in an ecologically sustainable way.

The implications of this project could be substantial. Beginning farmers and socially disadvantaged farmers are both considered higher risk credits by lenders and investors. Demonstrating a lower financial risk in the presence of high quality comprehensive technical assistance could create a pathway for more capital to become available. 

This post has been adapted from a press release issued by Food Finance Institute.

Animal welfare at Iroquois Valley partner farms

Heritage pigs grazing at Singing Pastures, one of our partner farms in Maine

We’re often asked why Iroquois Valley invests in operations that include livestock. Animal agriculture is an incredibly complex topic and it looks different across farms and across the food system.

We support farmers who raise animals in ways that regenerate our soils and our ecosystems by only partnering with farmers who raise animals on pastures managed organically. There is an alternative to the dominant industrial animal agriculture system and it needs support. Animals are essential to life on this planet, particularly in the ways they support soil and the carbon cycle. Management matters and offers solutions. For those who choose to eat meat, we hope they find farmers like ours in their community who are thoughtful in their work with the land. We developed a guide to animal welfare on our farms that you can read here. It offers our approach to supporting animal agriculture and shares stories from our farmer partners.

Iroquois Valley is reimagining a food and finance system that puts farmer land stewards at the center. Our financial products support long-term land security so that farmers can invest in the land, our ecosystems, and maintain financial viability in a food system where small and mid-sized farmers compete against large corporate interests. There is an alternative system and we are committed to our role in building it.

2020 Holiday Gift Guide

Iroquois Valley is proud to share its annual gift guide featuring products grown by the farmers we partner with – 2020 has been unlike any other year and we hope it has deepened your connection to what nourishes you. This year’s gift guide is illustrated by Evanston-based artist, Hannah Bess Ross who sells prints, cards, and ceramics here. Scroll through for products available across the country as well as products available in certain locales (WA, MI, MN). Warm wishes for a healthy and joyous holiday season!

NATIONALLY AVAILABLE PRODUCTS

Organic aronia berries: available covered in Rainforest Alliance-certified chocolate or freeze dried to add to smoothies or baked goods. Email info@boonecountyorganics.com to order.
Janie’s Mill organic wheat products include specialty flours, bran, and whole wheat berries. Visit their online store here.
Make sure to check out their recipes and tips for baking with heirloom grains.
Year-round CSA shares, eggs, poultry, meat, & honey raised on organic prairie pastures. Visit their online store here. Products available for home delivery or local pickup. Use the discount code IQVF-HOLIDAY to save.
Charcuterie and roam sticks made from heritage pork raised on organic pastures. Visit their online store here and use the discount code IVFARMS15 to save.
Goat cheese and dairy products, including gift boxes. Visit their online store here. Goats raised in a silvopasture system that incorporates fruit trees and bushes that flavor some of the products. Note: some products only available for pick up at their farmstand.
Organically grown grains, available as flour, rolled, and whole berries, as well as heirloom dry beans. Visit their online store here.
Organic lentils and grains grown by our partners at Vilicus Farms and other organic farmers in the Northern Great Plains. Visit their online store here.
Heritage pork and grass fed beef raised on pasture in the North Woods. Shop their curated boxes and available cuts through their online store. They are even offering soap! Nation-wide shipping and local delivery available throughout Duluth, the Twin Cities, and the North Shore.
Currently sold out! Grass-fed beef available in gift boxes and by the cut raised on organically managed pastures. Check back on their online store for future availability!

LOCALS ONLY PRODUCTS

Grass-fed beef raised on the Olympic Peninsula in a silvopasture system that incorporates grasses, forage, and trees. Visit their online store here. Free delivery to the greater Puget Sound and Western Washington area.
Heritage pork cuts available now: bacon, fat back, smoked ham & hocks, sausage: (breakfast, bratwurst, Italian, German style Kielbasa), leaf fat, loin roast, pork chops, smoked shoulder roast, organs & neck bones, pork steak, shoulder roast, and spare ribs. Lamb available soon and rabbit available in March!

Email thepasturage@gmail.com to order pork or purchase a Square gift card for future orders. Pick up at the Muskegon Farmers Market or at the farm. Local delivery may be available – email to inquire.
Sign up for a summer CSA share! Featherstone Farm is a certified organic produce farm offering customized CSA shares for both summer (18 weeks) and winter shares (9 weeks). Early summer boxes include lettuce, spinach, basil and onions, broccoli and kale. Available throughout the Twin Cities, as well as in Rochester, La Crosse, and Winona – find a full list of CSA pick up locations here and learn more at the Featherstone Farm website.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST

Iroquois Valley is proud to partner with farmers raising good food across the country. We believe that land security enables land stewardship – our work supports farmers and their businesses. Investing with Iroquois Valley allows us to grow and partner with more farmers raising food in ways that enliven our soils, ecosystems, and communities. Learn more about our investment options here or set up a conversation by emailing invest@iroquoisvalley.com.

Innovative financing to help restore soil health

Iroquois Valley’s Soil Restoration Notes are an innovative conservation financing tool that provides investors a return and enables farmers to invest in the land. These notes specifically target support for soil health and the organic transition. This work was partially funded by a Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Conservation Innovation Grant.

Conservation Innovation Grants are three-year grants – ours was funded in 2016 and was completed in September 2019. Our final report shares information about our project to develop Soil Restoration Notes and directly support farmers for their soil-building work. In the Soil Restoration Notes’ first iteration in 2017, we raised a little over $2 million and deployed $3,134 to farmers through the Soil Restoration Pool, a mechanism that pays 0.5% interest into a pool for farmers as investors accrue interest through their investment. Since then, we’ve raised over $20 million in investor capital – this year, the Soil Restoration Pool reached $50,000 and funded soil health and conservation projects for 15 farmers.

A NEW MODEL FOR SHARING RISK: CHANGING THE FARM FINANCE SYSTEM

Other report highlights include lessons learned throughout the project and ways we are looking to build on this work in the future.

Read the full report here.

From the field: Farming regeneratively at Singing Pastures Farm

This piece originally appeared in a newsletter and is shared with permission from the Arbuckles at Singing Pastures. Iroquois Valley provided mortgage financing to the Arbuckles to establish their operation in Maine.

Singing Pastures has deep roots in farming. It’s not just a job, it’s a commitment to food and the global community we serve. We want to do the most good possible.  We’ve decided that “sustainable” isn’t good enough. We want to be regenerative.

In 2021, we’re committed to sequestering more carbon than we’ve ever sequestered before. We’re planting hundreds of apple, pear, chestnut, and acorn-bearing oaks that with time will help us to build healthy soil even faster. We’re making compost on an enormous scale. We’re planting willow trees along sensitive creek banks. Imagine in 5 or 10 years a herd of pigs grazing clover in the alleyways and apples under the trees!

Since beginning the regenerative management of our farm in coastal Maine, we have watched the wild, grassland loving species populations explode and come back to life. Ground nesting birds, coyotes, foxes, and about a million small mammals are living here in greater abundance than we have ever seen them. The pastures around our house are getting louder and louder as more wildlife sings and croaks and howls on summer nights. 

The result of our pigs living and grazing our fields has made the wildlife more abundant, the creeks are cleaner, the grass is thicker, the carbon in our soil is greater, and the entire ecosystem is healing!

This is one of the many examples of how human beings can be a positive, nurturing influence on the earth. We invite you to come with us on the journey and learn with us as we go.

Shop Singing Pastures regenerative pork products at their online store and at Thrive Market online.

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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