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Category: Investment News

Black Wind Farm: An investment in a veteran farmer’s journey to farmland ownership in New York

We are so proud to welcome Justin Butts to our portfolio. Justin is a first-generation, Navy veteran farmer with extensive and varied experience – he’s a farmer, a small business owner, and a chef. Hear Justin tell his story in this Sustainable Dish podcast episode.

Justin was the livestock manager at Soul Fire Farm, “an Afro-Indigenous centered community farm committed to uprooting racism and seeding sovereignty in the food system.” Soul Fire Farm’s wide-ranging and deeply impactful work was featured in Vogue in summer 2020 – read the article here. Justin continues his relationship with Soul Fire through their Braiding Seeds Fellowship, an in-depth mentorship & professional development program for farmers of color in collaboration with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives. Justin maintained a small animal herd on land leased in partnership with Laughing Earth Farm as he navigated his path toward farmland ownership. In regards to other farms and organizations that helped Justin along the way, he shares that “I would not be the farmer I am today without The Seed Farm,” an organization in Pennsylvania where he learned a lot of his initial skills as a farmer. Wilklow Orchards also helped by leasing Justin land during college and supplying the kitchen and storage space to start his soap business. 

We met Justin by referral from Local Farms Fund, a mission-aligned farmland investing company that owned the property Justin wanted to purchase. The 103 acre property is on a windy bluff in Albany County, New York and will be named Black Wind Farm. Justin has years of experience producing & selling artisanal soaps from his heritage Kune Kune breed hogs’ lard through his value-added business, Butts Bros Handmade Lard Soap. Justin’s expansive vision for the farm includes continuing the soap business as well as direct-to-consumer offerings of diversified livestock products, on-farm educational experiences, and habitat restoration.

He is also considering Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) carbon sequestration programs. Justin plans to plant a windbreak along the farm and restore four acres of wetlands and riparian habitat while maintaining perennial pasture. Justin is using management-intensive grazing techniques to rotate his herds and flocks of heritage breed pigs, sheep, broiler and laying chickens, and whole turkeys, in addition to growing produce. Justin intends to plant an orchard and fruiting shrubs that visitors to the farm can pick in a do-it-yourself program.

Working with Justin inspired Iroquois Valley to pilot an improved risk-assessment during the underwriting process which weighs land stewardship practices and community engagement along with financial metrics. Evolving our risk assessment is an intentional way to further broaden the way we approach partnerships and offers material support to more traditionally underserved borrowers. We look forward to deepening this work and continuously evolving how we share risk and offer support to the farmers in our network.

Eli’s Ridge: Pasture & forest-raised livestock in the heart of North Carolina

Shawn and Jennifer Hatley are fourth-generation farmers in Stanly County who raise sheep, pigs, cows, ducks, and chickens with their sons, Blake and Eli. The Hatleys apply sustainable and regenerative farming principles and work within a perennial pasture and forest-based farming system (also known as silvopasture) in Oakboro, a suburb of Charlotte. We approved financing for the Hatleys to purchase a 108-acre property from Shawn’s father, David Hatley, by the end of August, marking what will be Iroquois Valley’s first investment in North Carolina. This investment allows the younger generation of Hatleys to expand operations and take on ownership of their father’s land.

Although the Hatleys have experience with organic management, they have not pursued certification before, opting instead for Animal Welfare Approved. As a result of our investment, they will certify their land organic this coming year. Land stewardship is a prominent value to the Hatley family having partnered with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to protect a creek and riparian habitat on the property. They look forward to further conservation projects in years to come.

Building Community & Giving Back

Over the last decade, Shawn and Jennifer have created a collection of products and brands to bring value added farm products to market, including The Naked Pig Rendered Leaf Fat, Sun Raised Farms Lamb Salami, EggsbyEli.com, and Blake’s Creek Ranch beef. In July, the Hatleys purchased Rayfield Meat Center, a beloved country store and USDA inspected processing facility in neighboring Anson County, to vertically integrate operations. Rayfield Meat Center has been serving a diverse community for more than 50 years and the Hatleys plan to expand processing capacity through Rayfield Meats to serve more eaters and farmers in the region. The Hatleys also work with a nonprofit organization called My Father’s Cows, sourcing beef from local farmers for distribution through churches to people experiencing food insecurity. Their egg business, EggsbyEli, has a food ministry component, as well as pooling excess double-yolk and turkey eggs from their own and other local farmers in the area, delivering to the local feeding ministries. The Hatleys look forward to serving more with this investment from Iroquois.

How impact investing helps meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

What are the UN Sustainable Development Goals?

In 2016, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) emerged as a strategic framework that companies, organizations, and policymakers can apply to solve the world’s most pressing issues. Ranging from eliminating poverty to protecting the planet, the 17 sustainable development goals are a 15-year agenda for progress. These goals include natural resource management, climate responsibility and global health.

Investing in Global Change

Moving trillions of dollars toward sustainable initiatives will be necessary to achieve these worldwide goals and impact investing plays an important role in doing so. According to the Annual Impact Investor Survey, released by the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) in 2018, over half of impact investors are measuring their investments’ progress against the SDGs.

How does Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT measure up within the SDG framework? Because financing organic farmland covers so much ecological and social ground, our portfolio addresses multiple Sustainable Development Goals, including goals 3, 6, 12, 13, and 15. We’re highlighting three of these goals to give you a closer look at some of our impact areas:

Ensure Access to Water and Sanitation For All: Goal 6

We work to expand acreage farmed organically in the US. With a significant number of our farms located in the Midwest, we are significantly impacting the Mississippi watershed by scaling organic agriculture in this region. This corresponds to Goal 6.6: “By 2020, protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes”.

Runoff from pesticides applied to conventional farmland is a major polluter of waterways, which impacts the human and ecological health of the watershed. Runoff from the Midwest through the Mississippi River contributes to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, measured at 5,780 square miles (the size of Connecticut) in 2018. Organic farms tend to have much higher soil organic matter and less nutrient loss than conventional farms, meaning that organic fertilizers applied are retained in the soil and do not contribute to runoff. Moreover, organic fertilizers are biodegradable and break down without harming water.

Climate Action: Goal 13

Although this goal primarily relates to curbing emissions, organic and regenerative agriculture has an important role to play in mitigating and even reversing climate change by sequestering carbon from the atmosphere in the soil. With that perspective in mind, our work increasing organic acreage in the US applies to the goals of “strengthening resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards” and “improving human capacity on climate change mitigation, adaption, and impact reduction”.

Life on Land: Goal 15

This goal focuses on protecting and increasing biodiversity, as well as restoring soil and land degraded by droughts and floods. Organic agriculture prioritizes biodiversity, conservation, and soil restoration to build climate resiliency. In a world increasingly affected by climate change and its related extreme weather, our organic farmers are facing more severe flooding and drought. This makes building soil organic matter all the more important so it can retain moisture, even excess moisture, from storms through drought.

Dryland farming is a crop management system prevalent in the arid West that does not use irrigation and grows crops only by relying on rainfall during the growing season. Our farmers at Vilicus Farms in Montana use the dryland farming technique and have 30% of their farm in bio-diverse conservation habitat. Across the country, we work with farmers who are building soil, planting for pollinators, and growing nutritious food.

Learn more about investing in organic agriculture through our Direct Public Offering or Soil Restoration Notes.

Events

2021 Holiday Gift Guide

December 3, 2021
Iroquois Valley is excited to share our annual gift guide featuring products grown by the farmers we partner with. Scroll below for products available across the country as well as products available in certain regions.

News

Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT, PBC Announces Bill Stoddart as CEO and Christopher Zuehlsdorff as COO

July 28, 2022
Iroquois Valley is proud to announce the hiring of William “Bill” Stoddart as CEO, effective July 11th, 2022, and Christopher Zuehlsdorff as COO, effective July 25th, 2022.

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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