Category: What We’re Reading

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.

Walton Family Foundation & USDA-NRCS support agroforestry and wetlands restoration in Mississippi River Valley

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.

Flour Shortage? Amber Waves of Regional Grains to the Rescue

Neighbor loaves at Hewn Bakery. Image source: Hewn Bakery instagram.

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been highly visible in the food system. Amy Halloran writes on the grain economy in her latest for Civil Eats, highlighting the role of small and regional mills in supplying flour during this crisis. The article includes a mention of Iroquois Valley-financed farmers, John & Halee Wepking, who farm at Meadowlark Organics.

Key quote: “Outside of this industrial baking complex, there exists a world of farmer-cultivated grain systems that not only address the limited choices farmers face inside the conventional system, but also produce delicious, fresh flour, which is generally stoneground and full of the fat and flavor that industrial processing strips away. And it is as different from its supermarket cousin as a tree-ripened peach is from a can of cling peaches.”

Read the article on Civil Eats here.

Pesticide Police, Overwhelmed By Dicamba Complaints, Ask EPA For Help

NPR reports on dicamba drift overwhelming Midwestern pesticide testing labs. Dicamba is a Bayer Monsanto-manufactured herbicide that was approved for use by the EPA in 2016. Dicamba is sprayed on genetically engineered soybean plants that are resistant to the herbicide and survive, while surrounding weeds die. Since its implementation, dicamba has faced harsh criticism because of its propensity to drift.

Pesticide drift has long been a danger to organic farmers. It’s one reason that organic farmers use buffer zones often planted with trees and hedgerows to create borders around their fields from neighboring conventional fields. Pesticide drifting into an organic field can mean that the crops grown in the field cannot be sold as organic. It can also mean the loss of organic certification for the acreage, which requires farmers to take it through a three-year transition period again.

Dicamba drift can also be a danger to other conventional growers, who may be growing conventional soybeans, but not dicamba-resistant soybeans. Drift from dicamba can mean death and crop loss for their conventional soybeans.

This report highlights how widespread dicamba drift is and how ill-prepared local authorities are to deal with the problem. Drift and the complications that arise from it is only one issue relating to pesticide and herbicide usage. We also know that it contributes to much more, which can be explored in depth on Pesticide Action Network’s website. As a company that supports organic farmers, we believe that we must end the use of pesticides and herbicides for the health of our food, soil, watersheds, and farmers.

Is Organic Farming Risky?

The National Center for Appropriate Technology recently released a report evaluating risk in organic agriculture based on five years of research.

“I’m able to report that we found no strong evidence that organic farms are any riskier than non-organic ones, and at least some evidence to the contrary”, says Jeff Schahczenski, an Agriculture and Natural Resource Economist who helped author the report.

Our own farmer partner, Doug Crabtree, who operates Vilicus Farms with Anna Jones-Crabtree, participated in research for this report. Read the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s blog post contextualizing the report here.

Soil Wealth

Croatan Institute recently released Soil Wealth, a comprehensive look at investing in regenerative agriculture across the US. Their term, soil wealth, relates to “the constellation of benefits associated with building both soil health and community wealth through regenerative agriculture.” The report offers an in-depth study of what’s already happening in this space alongside recommendations for capacity-building and growing the movement.

We’re highlighted among others like Rodale InstitutePipeline Foods, and more who are doing important work to support regenerative agriculture through the value chain.

Read the report here.

‘A major punch in the gut’: Midwest rains projected to create near-record dead zone in Gulf

It’s been a slow spring in the Midwest, marked by historically wet conditions that have caused floods and delayed planting throughout the region. These effects are being felt throughout the region and beyond: flooding in the Midwest is accelerating the flow of water from the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico. The Washington Post recently reported on the connection between Midwestern agriculture and ocean health – and it’s not pretty. It’s critical that the farms in the Mississippi watershed are managed organically in order to keep our waterways clean and free from chemical runoff that will feed the dead zone. Our work throughout this region and its watershed feels all the more important, especially as we experience the more volatile weather and increased moisture climate change is bringing.

Read the article here.

The Chicken and The Egg: Stop Linear Farming and Embrace Circular Agriculture

In a recent Forbes article, “The Chicken and The Egg: Stop Linear Farming and Embrace Circular Agriculture,” our partners at Main Street Project had their poultry-centered permaculture model featured in an interview with head agronomist, Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin. In it, he speaks about Main Street’s holistic approach to farming with nature and building an equitable model where smallholder farmers can succeed.

Our favorite quotes from the article:

On their vision – 

“As farmers we don’t produce anything. Nature does. We simply manage the process, a non-linear process, by which inedible energy is transformed into edible energy — from soil to carrots, from grain to eggs and chickens.”

On how their model works –

“Our 1.5 to 3-acre production units incorporate a canopy of vertical native perennial species like hazelnuts as well as a lower layer of understory crops. This protects and shades the chickens, who move freely throughout this “Tree-Range™” system, continually eating bugs, working the soil, and fertilizing.”

Iroquois Valley provided mortgage financing to Main Street Project in the purchase of their 100-acre demonstration farm in Northfield, MN.

Events

Calling all transitioning & organic farmers: Share your experience in two surveys

The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) and Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) are collaborating with the Social and Economic Sciences Research Center (SESRC) to identify the research priorities of certified organic producers, as well as producers transitioning land to certified organic production.

Read more

News

Rodale Institute invests $2 million into Iroquois Valley

Rodale's impact investment with Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT will provide farmer-friendly leases, mortgages, and lines of credit for farmers transitioning to organic.

Read more

What We're Reading

From the field: Farming regeneratively at Singing Pastures Farm

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.

Read more

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