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 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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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 Rosswho 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!
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.
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 arecleaner, 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.
Rodale Institute, the global leader of regenerative organic agriculture, is “putting its money where its mouth is” by investing 2 million dollars with Iroquois Valley Farmland Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT), a farmland finance company that works with mission-driven investors to provide organic and regenerative farmers land security through long-term leases and mortgages.
The Board of Directors at Rodale Institute approved the decision to invest a portion of the organization’s endowment fund and general operating budget with Iroquois Valley in an effort to increase land access for organic farmers across the country and boost organic acreage, a core tenet of Rodale Institute’s mission.
Rodale Institute has been researching the benefits of regenerative organic agriculture for over 70 years, focusing on growing the organic movement through science, farmer training, and consumer education. This investment makes Rodale Institute one of the top 5 shareholders in Iroquois Valley, allowing the Institute to support organic farmers while responsibility stewarding its assets and growing its endowment.
“Rodale Institute has always been committed to socially responsible investing,” said Maya Rodale, Co-Chair of Rodale Institute’s Board of Directors. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to invest with Iroquois Valley, whose mission to put more organic farmers on more organic acres couldn’t be more in line with ours. We are taking the opportunity to make a difference in the world with our investments—because the future is organic.”
Despite the organic market reaching $55 billion in the U.S. in 2019, only 1% of U.S. farmland is certified organic. Programs like Rodale Institute’s Organic Crop Consulting service, which puts trained agronomists on transitioning farms in a one-on-one mentorship model, are working to bridge that gap. However, land access and capital remain a barrier for potential organic farmers across the United States.
Iroquois Valley seeks to break down those barriers by purchasing farmland and entering into a lease agreement or underwriting a mortgage for organic farmers who are looking to start or expand their operation. Rodale Institute’s investment allows Iroquois Valley to purchase more land and offer those resources to farmers nationwide.
With the availability of farmable land decreasing every year, the power of Iroquois Valley to purchase land quickly for organic farmers who may not have access to traditional funding sources is critical in ensuring the growth of the organic movement. Iroquois Valley also offers lines of credit for organic farmers who need to jumpstart their operation. Iroquois Valley’s portfolio currently includes over 60 farms on more than 13,000 acres in 15 states.
“One of our founding goals at Iroquois Valley was simply to support organic farmers in growing their businesses and stewarding more land,” explained Iroquois Valley co-founder and board chair, Dr. Stephen Rivard. “We believe that more land in organic production is essential to changing both our food and healthcare systems. Rodale Institute’s investment will allow us to deploy more capital to organic and transitioning farmers who are building healthy soils and supporting healthy outcomes for people & planet. We are proud to partner with Rodale Institute and work together toward an organic future.”
Rodale Institute’s impact investment with Iroquois Valley not only increases land access for organic farmers but ensures responsible investment and growth of Rodale Institute’s endowment in a way that aligns with its mission. “Impact investing” refers to investments that provide capital to address social or environmental issues while generating a financial return. Rodale Institute’s bylaws state that “up to 100% of investment assets should be allocated to socially responsible investment opportunities.”
“Investing in farmland is an excellent addition to our already diverse portfolio,” said Elaine Macbeth, Rodale Institute’s Chief Financial Officer. “This addition allows for more stability in our portfolio and creates an investment that is inflation-resistant during adverse market conditions while upholding the mission we work towards every day.”
One example of the direct impact of Rodale Institute’s investment is Main Street Project, a nonprofit based in Northfield, Minnesota. Main Street Project uses a poultry-based regenerative system to develop farming opportunities for Latinx immigrants working in the food system.
Iroquois Valley, through the help of their investors, was able to scale up Main Street Project’s model to a 100-acre farm where the organization can document the economic, ecological, and social impacts of regenerative livestock on a family-farm level. Iroquois Valley’s support has also allowed Main Street Project to increase training opportunities for upcoming and established farmers looking to integrate regenerative poultry.
In addition to advancing the impact of Rodale Institute’s investments, Iroquois Valley is also utilizing Rodale Institute’s research, farmer training, and educational resources, such as consulting, to assist their clients with the economics of transition.
Rodale Institute has always believed that investment in organic agriculture is an investment in rural communities, farm families, and public health. Investing in Iroquois Valley’s diversified portfolio of farmland allows the Rodale Institute to spread its impact across the United States, moving closer to an organic future.
We’re excited to read about the partnership between the Walton Family Foundation and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to restore forests and wetlands in the Mississippi watershed.
Over the last decade, this partnership has resulted in the restoration of more than 104,000 acres and the planting of more than 30 million trees in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley. Read more about this partnership here.
We are embarking on an agroforestry and wetlands restoration project at Rock Creek Farms, which is part of our portfolio. Initiatives like this help encourage conservation and deliver positive impacts for our ecosystems.
Rising fear of inflation is causing many investors to direct their money towards bonds or alternative asset classes instead of the stock market. Despite investors’ concerns, the Federal Reserve continues to hold rates steady, calling any inflation increases “transitory” amid the government stimulus.