Category: News & Media

Iroquois Valley recognized as 2021 Best for the World B Corp

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. Through the adoption of legal practices that underscore our commitment to more than shareholders, we are ensuring that Iroquois Valley will fulfill our triple-bottom-line mission. 

“Best for the World is a special program for the B Corp community, and we’re thrilled to resume it after pausing the program in 2020 due to COVID-19,” says Juan Pablo Larenas, Executive Director of B Lab Global. “This year’s Best for the World companies are operating at the very top of their class, excelling in creating positive impact for their stakeholders, including their works, communities, customers, and environment. We’re proud of the community of stakeholder-driven businesses we’ve cultivated over the last 15 years; together we’re marching toward our collective vision of an inclusive, equitable, and regenerative economic system for all people and the planet.” 

Best for the World B Corps score in the top 5% of all B Corps on the B Impact Assessment in their corresponding size group. This year, 767 B Corps from over 50 countries were named to the 2021 Best for the World lists, including companies such as Patagonia, TOMS, and Natura. 

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

Restoring the Agricultural Richness of Pembroke

Located one hour south of Chicago, the Pembroke Township in Illinois was once home to the largest Black farming community north of the Mason-Dixon line. Today, less than 50% of this land is owned by descendants of the farming families. Iroquois Valley, in partnership with Black Oaks Center, Savanna Institute, Conservation Fund, Food Finance Institute, and Fresh Taste, was awarded a Conservation Collaboration Grant in 2020 to support this farming community with the financial and technical resources necessary to expand and diversify the region’s agroforestry production. 

As part of this grant, Black Oaks Center recently hosted an Open House for all Pembroke landowners to attend and learn more about federal funding opportunities. Present at the event were Conservation Fund, Savanna Institute, Iroquois Valley, and Renewable Pembroke. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) was also available to sign up landowners for FSA programs – their first step in accessing National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) services. John Steven Bianucci, Iroquois Valley’s Director of Conservation, reported that over 25 landowners registered with the FSA. 

Overall, the event was a big success, increasing the momentum for Pembroke farming.

A Conversation with Chicory Wealth

Chicory Wealth, one of the registered investment advisors in our financial advisor network, recently hosted Alex Mackay, our VP, Investor Relations, for a conversation about investment opportunities at Iroquois Valley. We would highly recommend the webinar to anyone interested in a comprehensive overview of what we do. Alex walks through our Pitch Deck and shares stories about three of the farms in our portfolio

Worried about inflation? Invest in organic farmland

“Now is a very good time to invest in one of human civilization’s oldest and most reliable sources of wealth… farmland.” 

Justin Anderson, Yahoo Finance

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. 

For investors interested in hedging against periods of inflation, farmland is an exceptional asset to diversify an investment portfolio. As the price of consumer goods rises, the price of commodities (such as food) typically rises as well. Food is necessary for survival, so an increase in prices will not affect demand compared to non-essential consumer goods. An increase in the price of food is often accompanied by an increase in the value of farmland — thus making now a prime time to invest in one of our country’s most valuable assets

Although portfolio diversification and the financial upside of farmland investment are at the forefront of our investors’ minds, Iroquois Valley investors are equally concerned with supporting independent farmers, healthy food production, and environmental improvement. When you invest in Iroquois Valley, you are partnering alongside 500+ mission-driven investors working to provide organic farmers with land security and financing. Join us as we invest in the health of our planet, our soil, and our people. 

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.

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.

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.

Rodale Institute invests $2 million into Iroquois Valley

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.”

An agri-penuer working with Main Street Project, a beneficiary of Iroquois Valley. Photo courtesy of Main Street Project.

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 researchfarmer 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.

Our Public Benefit Report

Iroquois Valley is proud to release its first public benefit report. We incorporated our company as a public benefit corporation in 2016 to build into our structure our intent to create public benefit. We intend to create public benefit by enabling healthy food production, restoring soil, and improving water quality through the establishment of secure and sustainable farmland tenure. Read our public benefit report here.

This report builds on our history of impact reports, which measure our impacts against our vision statement. See our previous impact reports here.

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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