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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Survey participation graphic that says "Your input matters! Help make sure future research and program investments are relevant and responsive to the needs of organic producers like you."

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.

We are conducting two national surveys—one for certified organic producers and the other for producers transitioning to organic certification. If you are a certified organic farmer or rancher OR a farmer or rancher who is currently transitioning to certified organic, this is an opportunity to make your voice heard.

Survey results will help us ensure our organizational programs meet the needs of organic producers and that the increased funding for organic research secured in the 2018 Farm Bill addresses the unique needs of organic production. Results will be published in updates of OFRF’s National Organic Research Agenda (NORA) report and OSA’s State of Organic Seed (SOS) report to provide a roadmap for future research funding. If you have any questions about the surveys, please contact Lauren Scott at sesrc.nora.survey@wsu.edu

During these uncertain times, it is more important than ever that farmers and ranchers make their voices heard! The surveys opened on February 18, 2020 and the deadline is June 1, 2020

The surveys are voluntary, confidential, and will take approximately 30 minutes to complete. You can skip any questions you prefer not to answer. We welcome you to complete the survey in multiple sittings. The online survey saves your responses as you go along. You can stop at any point, and then resume the survey at any time by following the appropriate link above and entering your survey access code, which will be generated when you first start the survey. The online program will allow you to resume where you left off. Upon completion of the survey, you can enter to win a $100 gift card to REI. If you do not have access to a computer and cannot complete the survey online, please call OFRF at 831-426-6606.

Iroquois Valley is a sponsor of the organic and transitioning surveys. Learn more about this research in our blog post about partnering with OFRF here.

Iroquois Valley partners with the Organic Farming Research Foundation

Iroquois Valley is proud to partner with the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF)  by supporting their research to learn more about the challenges and research priorities of organic farmers and ranchers, as well as farmers and ranchers transitioning land to certified organic production. The project includes two national surveys—one for certified organic producers, and the other for producers transitioning to organic certification.  The project includes two national surveys—one for certified organic producers, and the other for producers transitioning to organic certification. It is in collaboration with the Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) and supported by the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. This partnership will last through 2021. Our additional support for this initiative will help:

  • Provide incentives to encourage survey participation from farmers
  • Enable Iroquois Valley farmers to participate in listening sessions and provide feedback on their experiencing transitioning and farming organically
  • Provide incentives to thank farmers who participate in focus group sessions at the following conferences across the US:
  • Fund additional listening sessions at conferences Iroquois Valley helps target and identify
  • Printing and sharing the final report in 2021

OFRF is a leader in organic agriculture advocacy, research, and education – over its 30 year history, it has been instrumental in highlighting the role of organic management in “building resiliency, restoring the health of our soils and waterways, and improving human health.” Iroquois Valley shares those beliefs and is proud to sponsor such relevant work within the organic agriculture community. The outcomes of OFRF’s transitioning and organic research will be invaluable to growing our shared movement. 

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.

Support Our Farmers by Shopping Online

Coronavirus is growing in the United States and across the world, creating a collective experience of uncertainty and apprehension as well as increased appreciation for our local farmers. As we move through this together, we want to highlight our farmers that offer direct sales through online stores. We hope that during these difficult times you find comfort in good food.

ORGANIC FLOURS, SPECIALTY GRAINS & BEANS

Janie’s Mill – organic flours, grains, and beans grown and milled in Illinois, shipping available nationwide. Janie’s Farm is Iroquois Valley’s first farm investment.

Meadowlark Organics – organic flours, grains, and beans grown and milled in Wisconsin, shipping available nationwide. Pantry Provisions boxes available for those looking to stock up.

Timeless Natural Foods – organic lentils and grains grown in Montana, shipping available nationwide. Our farmer partners at Vilicus Farms produce black beluga lentils for this growers cooperative.

MEAT

Mint Creek Farm – livestock raised on organic prairie pastures in Illinois, shipping available nationwide for frozen beef, pork, lamb, turkey, chicken, goat, and honey. Meat, eggs, and honey available for delivery throughout Chicago.

Singing Pastures Farm – 100% pasture-raised heritage pork from Maine, shipping available nationwide for cured pork products.

Vermont Natural Beef – 100% grass-fed cattle raised on pasture in Vermont, shipping available nationwide.

Main Street Project – chicken raised regeneratively in a canopy system in Minnesota. Delivery of whole frozen chicken available in the Twin Cities area with orders placed by 3/25/20.

Yker Acres – heritage breed pork raised on pasture outside of Duluth, MN. Join their meat club for monthly boxes of pork products. Delivery available to deliver to the Duluth area, Cloquet, Carlton, Twin Cities, and the Northshore.

DAIRY

Creambrook Farm – 100% grass-fed, lab-tested raw milk. Available through herd share program for pick up and delivery throughout parts of Virginia.

We work with dairy farmers who produce for Organic Valley, Maple Hill Creamery, and Kalona SuperNatural available regionally and nationwide in grocery stores.

Celebrating B Corp Month

March is B Corp Month, a time to celebrate the community of Certified B Corps and our collective impact. 

We became a B Corp in 2012 (and public benefit corporation in 2016) to demonstrate our commitment to triple bottom line impact. Our work is about helping organic and regenerative farmers succeed by providing innovative financial tools like long-term leases, mortgages, and, most recently, operating lines of credit. Our farmers create impact with their land and with their communities. Organic and regenerative farming has been increasingly recognized as a powerful tool to mitigate and even reverse climate change. This work is supported by impact investors, a community that prioritizes more than just financial returns. We’re proud to be a part of the B Corp community and to be working with farmers and investors alike to make business a force for good.

This B Corp month, we’d like to highlight a new B Corp within our financial advisory network. Figure 8 Investment Strategies is an independent registered investment advisor based in Boise, Idaho and was founded by Lisa Cooper in 2016 with the mission to shift the balance of wealth and power. Figure 8 integrates social and environmental impact into every aspect of its business, from its employees and operations, to the investment decisions made across client accounts. Figure 8 proudly earned its B Corp certification in January 2020.

Congrats to Figure 8 – welcome to the B Corp community!

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.

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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