Category: What We’re Reading

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.

History of the Iroquois Confederacy

As a fairness disclosure to the native peoples that inhabited these lands before us, we did not take the name of “Iroquois” with a particular historical or cultural viewpoint. The name of our company was instead singularly derived from the name of the county where we started business. However, we have learned to carry this name with pride and respect for the sustainable values and practices that are embodied in Iroquoian culture. It is with sincere admiration that we provide this information on the history of the Iroquois, perhaps the longest standing example of sustainable culture in North America.

Pronounced “eer-uh-kwoy,” the Iroquois Confederacy is made up of six tribes:
Mohawk, Seneca, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Tuscarora

The Iroquois Confederacy, also known as the Iroquois League, was governed by the Iroquois Great Council. Each Iroquois nation sent between eight and fourteen leaders to the Great Council, where they agreed on political decisions through discussion and voting. Although these politicians were called “chiefs,” they were actually elected officials, chosen by the clan mothers (or matriarchs) of each tribe. Each individual nation also had its own tribal council to make local decisions. This is similar to how American states each have their own government, but all are subject to the greater US government. In fact, the Iroquois Confederacy was one of the examples of representative democracy used as a model by America’s founding fathers.

Information provided by: Native Languages of the America’s, Authors Orrin Lewis and Laura Reddish

The Legend of the Three Sisters

According to Iroquois legend, corn, beans, and squash are three inseparable sisters who only grow and thrive together. This tradition of interplanting corn, beans and squash in the same mounds, widespread among Native American farming societies, is a sophisticated, sustainable system that provided long-term soil fertility and a healthy diet to generations. The roots of this tradition can be seen today in the diverse crop rotations used by our organic tenant farmers.

Information provided by: Renees’ Garden Seeds, Author Alice Formiga

Hiawatha’s Belt and the Flag of the Iroquois

Hiawatha's Belt and the Flag of the Iroquois

Hiawatha  is a legendary Native American leader and founder of the Iroquois confederacy. Depending on the version of the narrative, Hiawatha lived in the 16th century and was a leader of the Onondaga or the Mohawk.

Hiawatha was a follower of The Great Peacemaker, a prophet and spiritual leader, who proposed the unification of the Iroquois peoples, who shared similar languages. Hiawatha, a skilled and charismatic orator, was instrumental in persuading native tribes to accept the Great Peacemaker’s vision and band together to become the Five Nations of the Iroquois confederacy. Later, the Tuscarora nation joined the Confederacy to become the Sixth Nation.

The belt symbolizes these Five Nations from west to east in their respective territories across New York state: Seneca (keepers of the western door), Cayuga (People of the Swamp), Onondaga (Keepers of the Fire), Oneida (People of the Standing Stone) and Mohawk (keeper of the eastern door)—by open ‘squares’ of white beads with the central figure signifying a tree or heart.

The tree figure signifies the Onondaga Nation, capital of the League and home to the central council fire. It was on the shores of Onondaga Lake where the message of peace was “planted” and the hatchets were buried. From this tree, four white roots sprouted, carrying the message of unity and peace to the four directions.

The Hiawatha Belt forms the basis of the flag of the Iroquois Confederacy, created in the 1980s. Historical information supplied by Wikipedia.

The Constitution of the Iroquois Nation
The Great Binding Law
GAYANASHAGOWA

The Iroquois nation was bound by a written law and process. They established a governance structure that was designed to impact future generations. Because they were able to unify under this Constitution, they conquered foes greater than themselves. This is the philosophical basis for our Board of Managers, we are merely following the vision of the Iroquois:

1. I am Dekanawidah and with the Five Nations’ Confederate Lords I plant the Tree of Great Peace. I plant it in your territory, Adodarhoh, and the Onondaga Nation, in the territory of you who are Firekeepers.

I name the tree the Tree of the Great Long Leaves. Under the shade of this Tree of the Great Peace we spread the soft white feathery down of the globe thistle as seats for you, Adodarhoh, and your cousin Lords.

We place you upon those seats, spread soft with the feathery down of the globe thistle, there beneath the shade of the spreading branches of the Tree of Peace. There shall you sit and watch the Council Fire of the Confederacy of the Five Nations, and all the affairs of the Five Nations shall be transacted at this place before you, Adodarhoh, and your cousin Lords, by the Confederate Lords of the Five Nations.

Click here for the full constitution.

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.

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News

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 […]

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What We're Reading

Flour Shortage? Amber Waves of Regional Grains to the Rescue

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.

Read more

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