Earth Day is here, and we are grateful that there is a day devoted to raising awareness about environmental issues and celebrating our planet. The official theme for Earth Day 2022 is “Invest in Our Planet”, and it highlights the importance of holding businesses, governments, and citizens accountable for the future of our planet.
Some recommended resources about Earth Day can be found below. In celebrating Earth Day, we must acknowledge that it is important to prioritize the Earth every day, not only on April 22nd, and we must remember the Indigenous Peoples that have been stewarding our planet and resources for generations.
Iroquois Valley is proud to have partnered with the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) to support their work in publishing the 2022 National Organic Research Agenda (NORA). This report details organic research needs with the goal of informing future investments to support the success of organic farmers and ranchers and those transitioning to organic production. We are pleased to report that a number of farmers in the Iroquois Valley portfolio contributed to this research by participating in focus groups and surveys. In total, 1,100 certified organic and 71 transitioning-to-organic farmers and ranchers were surveyed or attended listening sessions. The goal of engaging farmers was to better understand their challenges, needs, and perspectives. An adapted version of OFRF’s press release with more information about the NORA can be found below.
This is the seventh national survey of organic producers that OFRF has conducted and the third NORA to be officially released. Findings from the 2022 NORA will be instrumental in guiding upcoming policy advocacy (including the 2023 Farm Bill) and informing organizations, researchers, USDA agencies, and Congress about the ways in which support for organic farmers can be improved and strengthened.
Highlights from the National Organic Research Agenda
“Organic farming has been historically under-invested in, in terms of research, education and extension,” says OFRF Executive Director Brise Tencer. “The 2022 National Organic Research Agenda presents incredible feedback directly from organic farmers and provides a compelling roadmap for how to best support the growth of this important sector of agriculture.”
Survey respondents provided input and perspectives on their current organic production systems, including the use of regenerative soil health management practices, water conservation, organic inputs, and organic seed. Findings confirm that organic producers lead the nation in adoption of soil health management and climate-friendly practices. The 2022 NORA also examines current farmer concerns in organic agriculture, farmers’ preferred sources and modes for information-sharing, and summarizes the impacts of COVID on organic producers.
Respondents also shared their production and non-production challenges, which OFRF then analyzed by region, farming experience, and race/ethnicity. This particular NORA compares the experiences of both Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and White farmers, and reveals BIPOC producers are experiencing many organic production challenges and at a higher rate than their White counterparts.
In addition to identifying gaps in current organic and transitioning-to-organic production challenges, NORA highlights farmer-identified solutions and strategies shared during its focus group discussions. NORA also provides comprehensive recommendations to guide OFRF’s research and policy initiatives. Proposed investments and focus areas include, but are not limited to, technical assistance, organic research, and racial equity programming.
About Organic Farming Research Foundation
Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) works to foster the improvement and widespread adoption of organic farming systems. OFRF cultivates organic research, education, and federal policies that bring more farmers and acreage into organic production.
Iroquois Valley was named an Emeritus Manager by ImpactAssets in its annual ImpactAssets 50™ (IA 50). This year, ImpactAssets celebrates its eleventh year curating its widely recognized list of impact investment fund managers.
According to ImpactAssets, the IA 50 is the first publicly available database that provides a gateway into the world of impact investing for investors and their financial advisors, offering an easy way to identify experienced impact investment firms and explore the landscape of potential investment options. In order to be considered for the IA 50 2022, fund managers needed to have at least $25 million in assets under management, more than three years of experience as a firm with impact investing, documented social and/or environmental impact, and be available for US investment.
“As impact investing continues its inexorable rise, it is critical to provide investors with a curated, objective evaluation of impact fund managers. The IA 50 is built to filter out the noise that is growing louder in impact investing and help investors focus on deep, meaningful impact.”
Jennifer Kenning, CEO and Co-Founder of Align Impact and IA 50 Senior Investment Advisor
The IA 50 Emeritus Impact Manager list illuminates impact fund managers who have achieved consistent recognition on the IA 50. Iroquois Valley is proud to be named an Emeritus Manager as a company selected for 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 view the other companies named to the IA 50 here.
The Company and Tera Johnson, our former CEO, parted ways effective December 3, 2021. Ms. Johnson’s departure was amicable – she moved on to pursue other opportunities. Dr. Stephen Rivard, the Co-Chair of the Board of Directors, expressed appreciation for “all of Tera’s hard work during her tenure. We wish her the best of luck in her next endeavor.”
Long-time Iroquois Valley Board member, Investment Committee member, and tenant farmer, Andy Ambriole, has agreed to serve as interim CEO, effective November 22, 2021. Dr. Rivard said that “Andy’s knowledge of Iroquois Valley and of organic farming make him an ideal person to steward the organization during our transition.”
Speaking about his new role, Mr. Ambriole shared, “Iroquois Valley is a farmer-first company, and I am proud to serve in an organization with that belief. I look forward to working with the team to grow our farmer base and in turn helping to convert more farmland to organic and regenerative.”
Finding a permanent CEO is a priority for the coming months, and the Board of Directors has begun a search. We expect to have an ample pool of qualified candidates.
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.
Iroquois Valley is excited to share our annual gift guide featuring products grown by the farmers we partner with – 2021 has been an exceptional year, and we hope that you have been able to enjoy local and organic foods, diverse and thriving landscapes, and intentional relationships with your communities throughout it all. This year’s gift guide is illustrated by Evanston-based artist, George Folz who specializes in commissioned drawings of animals, family portraits, and people. Check out his website here, and scroll below for products available across the country as well as products available in certain regions. Best wishes for a healthy and joyous holiday season!
NATIONALLY AVAILABLE PRODUCTS
Janie’s Mill (IL): Janie’s Mill organic-milled products and grains include specialty flours, bran, and whole wheat berries. Visit their online store here. Make sure to check out their recipes for baking with heirloom grains.
Mint Creek Farm (IL): Year-round CSA shares, eggs, poultry, meat, & honey raised on organic prairie pastures. Visit their online store here. Products available for home delivery or local pick-up.
Singing Pastures (ME): Charcuterie and roam sticks made from heritage pork raised on organic pastures. Visit their online store here.
Prairie Fruits Farm (IL): Goat cheese and dairy products, including gift boxes. Visit their online store here. Goats raised in a silvopasture system that incorporates fruit trees and bushes that also flavor some of the products. Note: some products only available for pick-up at their farmstand.
Meadowlark Organics (WI): Organically grown grains, available as flour, rolled, and whole berries, as well as heirloom dry beans. Visit their online store here.
Vilicus Farms (MT): Organic lentils and grains grown by our partners at Vilicus Farms and other organic farmers in the Northern Great Plains. Visit their online store here.
Y-Ker Acres (MN): Heritage pork and grass fed beef raised on pasture in the North Woods of Minnesota. Shop their curated boxes and available cuts through their online store. Nationwide shipping and local delivery available throughout Duluth, the Twin Cities, and the North Shore.
Vermont Natural Beef (VT): Currently sold out. Grass-fed beef available in gift boxes and by the cut raised on organically managed pastures. Check back on their online store for future availability!
Doudlah Farms (WI): Over twenty varieties of organic artisan products including beans, flours, honey, and sunflower seeds. Check out the farm’s story and their products here.
Evergreen Ranching (SD): Audubon-Certified ranch that produces meats, jerky, and raw dog food / dog treats. If you are looking for something for yourself or your furry friend, shop their online store here. Items are also available for pick-up in Rapid City, SD and Sturgis, SD.
The Little Farm By the Sea (WA): Currently sold out. Grass-fed beef and pasture-raised poultry raised on the Olympic Peninsula in a silvopasture system that incorporates grasses, forage, and trees. Visit their online store here to check for future availability. Free delivery to the greater Puget Sound and Western Washington area.
The Pasturage (MI): Heritage pork cuts available now: bacon, fat back, smoked ham & hocks, sausage: (breakfast, bratwurst, Italian, German style Kielbasa), leaf fat, loin roast, pork chops, smoked shoulder roast, organs & neck bones, pork steak, shoulder roast, and spare ribs.
Email email@example.com order pork or purchase a Square gift card for future orders. Pick-up at the Muskegon Farmers Market or at the farm. Local delivery may be available – email to inquire.
Featherstone Farm (MN): Sign up for a winter or summer CSA share! Featherstone Farm is a certified organic produce farm offering customized CSA shares for both summer (18 weeks) and winter shares (9 weeks). Available throughout the Twin Cities, as well as in Rochester, La Crosse, and Winona – find a full list of CSA pick-up locations here and learn more at the Featherstone Farm website.
Chehalis Valley Farm (WA): Pasture-raised poultry and forest-raised pork that is sustainably and ethically grown in the Chehalis River Valley outside of Elma, WA. Find it at local farmer’s markets in Olympia, Proctor, and Bellevue or order through South Sound Fresh. The meats can also be ordered directly through their online store for pick-up at the farm or a farmer’s market.
SUPPORT IROQUOIS VALLEY THIS HOLIDAY SEASON
Iroquois Valley is proud to partner with farmers raising good food across the country. We believe that land security enables land stewardship – our work supports farmers and their businesses. Investing with Iroquois Valley allows us to grow and partner with more farmers raising food in ways that enliven our soils, ecosystems, and communities. Learn more about our investment options here or set up a conversation by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reflecting on questions posed at the start of the conference by Esther Park of Cienega Capital and the #NoRegrets Initiative: How can we change investors’ mindsets and value systems to view investments through an intersectional lens? Investors might want to consider asking: does this investment place priority on beauty, diversity, and complexity? Where does the wealth go, and who benefits from it? Are there ways for wealth to be more equitably distributed?
Asking ourselves how we can measure the emotional and economic health of our farmers?
Claire Mesesan, Iroquois Valley’s Vice President of Farmer Relations, spoke on a panel entitled “Real Asset Investment Strategies.” Alongside her fellow panelists from SLM Partners and Biome Capital, Claire highlighted Iroquois Valley’s commitment to organic and regenerative farmers and ranchers with our farmer-first model. When asked if investors can make a bigger impact supporting row crop operations or perennial crop operations, she emphasized that annual cropping systems and perennial cropping systems can coexist: both types can sequester carbon and build soil health. Iroquois Valley’s portfolio supports farmers raising annual crops, perennial crops, livestock and dairy on pasture, and much more, often simultaneously in diversified operations. Investors can create impact supporting a wide range of organic and regenerative operations.
The following day, Donna Holmes, Iroquois Valley’s Vice President of Investor Relations, presented at a panel titled “Bringing Institutional Capital to Regenerative.” Institutional capital is necessary to drive innovation and advance change across our food system, yet there is a significant gap between the demand for institutional capital and the supply. Donna recommended that we collaborate with institutions to design products that fit their needs. Further, she agreed with other panelists that a consistent definition of regenerative agriculture may be needed before more institutions commit capital to this movement.
We were proud to sponsor the RFSI Forum, and we look forward to more networking, collaboration, and innovation with key players in the regenerative agriculture and food system arena.
Iroquois Valley signed on to a letter to the editor of the Chicago Tribune in opposition to a proposed airport project. The letter is shared below. The issue was taken up by reporter, Ted Slowik, in the Daily Southtown and Chicago Tribune. Read his response here.
Northeastern Illinois boasts some of the planet’s most fertile soils. Yet the state of Illinois has spent decades dismissing farmland’s enduring value by pushing a misguided scheme to build a commercial airport near the village of Peotone.
The Illinois Department of Transportation has used threats of eminent domain to acquire — and remove from local property tax rolls — more than 4,100 acres of farmland. This “airport footprint” is more than four times the size of Chicago’s Loop.
Our Will County farm community is pleased others are joining our opposition. On July 11, the Tribune Editorial Board wrote: “The sooner public officials in Springfield and in Chicago’s southern exurbs admit the folly of the Peotone project, the sooner that land … can be sold for farmland or dedicated to other uses”.
The eastern Will County countryside is best suited to serve an economy based around food and agricultural enterprises. The same goes for southwestern Will County — where regional planners and county and local governments want to build warehouse complexes to handle imported goods arriving at an intermodal freight hub.
County studies dismiss our world-class renewable resource as “vacant land.” They claim “the greatest opportunity for growth” is more concrete, asphalt and rooftops. This mindset has driven regional growth patterns since the dawn of interstate highways. In recent decades, public services and infrastructure have been stretched over ever greater distances while the regional population has barely increased.
We don’t need more sprawl. 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.
Taxpaying farmers deliver these same “ecosystem services” free of charge. This is no small matter. Our region’s agricultural working landscape constitutes a landmass almost six times the size of the city of Chicago.
The local food movement has exposed the strategic importance of farmland near population centers. Northeastern Illinois needs a regional policy framework that supports farmers’ access to all markets — whether down the road or around the globe. Let’s work together to make thriving regional farm and food economies a building block of our public health infrastructure. — Steve Warrick, Sr., Will County Farm Bureau; Jim Robbins, Will/South Cook Soil & Water Conservation; and Dave Miller; Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT
“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.
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.
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
We are pleased to announce Donna Holmes as our new VP, Investor Relations. She replaces Alex Mackay in this position as Alex has left Iroquois Valley to pursue other opportunities. Donna joins us with more than 15 years of experience in business development and investor relations. Her extensive educational background in law and taxation and her enthusiasm for organic farming make her an invaluable addition to Iroquois Valley. Outside of work, Donna enjoys gardening in her downtown Chicago apartment and cycling along Lake Michigan. To schedule an introductory call with Donna, please email her at email@example.com.
When President Biden released his plan to protect and grow the rural economy earlier this year, he called for investing in programs that would help farmers reduce their environmental impact while increasing their productivity, profitability, and ability to sequester carbon from the atmosphere.
The goals that Biden’s plan highlights — carbon sequestration through planting cover crops, increasing farm productivity and resilience, and reducing emissions — are core tenets of regenerative agriculture, a more natural way of farming that we at Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT, a nationally recognized Certified B Corp, are well familiar with. After all, Iroquois Valley and its hundreds of mission-minded investors have been helping small farmers increase their organic and regenerative land holdings for nearly 15 years.
Farming is a volatile industry. Food prices and weather patterns fluctuate. Financing options are equally unpredictable. But our experience shows that organic farming is more predictable, more productive, and more profitable than conventional agriculture methods. Studies by our partners at the Rodale Institute and the Organic Farming Research Foundation, and others have found it’s better for our health, our soil, and the planet.
Yet despite the continual, rapid growth of the $60 billion U.S. organic market, organic land makes up less than 1% of our farmland. In Illinois it’s even less: about 39,000 acres out of 27 million. To Iroquois Valley, our investors, and our farmers, these figures represent a problem but also an opportunity.
For most of Iroquois Valley’s existence, investment opportunities were limited to accredited investors who were willing to make long-term commitments of capital, and to share risk with our farmers. We amassed a roster of hundreds of financial advisers, institutions, and individuals financing dozens of farmers across the country. Yet we realized this exclusivity limited our impact.
In 2019 we opened our portfolio to nonaccredited retail investors. There was a long-standing reason for this: We wanted regular people to also be able to support a healthy farm economy, from the soil to the food to the farmers. We knew there were investors out there who didn’t want to play the stock market and who sought a real connection to what their money supported, in this case, ownership of high-quality American organic farmland.
But we also recognized the business case: protection from market forces, flexibility for long-term investors, more stability in our portfolio, and more muscle to increase our holdings and grow organic farmland across the United States.
We correctly predicted the appetite for such an offering. In 2020 despite the disruptions from the pandemic and its economic fallout, Iroquois Valley saw record levels of new investment. More than 130 new investors — nearly half of them nonaccredited retail investors — committed more than $14 million. Not only that, but our land holdings grew by 10% and our stock price grew to $618, steadily growing from $260 in 2008, proving that the value of organic farmland continues to grow.
Would our number of shareholders have grown in 2020 had we not expanded our offering? Perhaps. But because we saw the powerful value of bringing retail investors into the fold, Iroquois Valley — and its investors — were able to make a much greater impact in this vital quest to grow organic land in the United States.
The mission — and opportunity — is even greater as the effects of climate change become more apparent.
As David Miller, Iroquois Valley’s co-founder and CEO, often says: “There’s no liquidity on a dead planet.”
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.
Earth Day is here, and we are grateful that there is a day devoted to raising awareness about environmental issues and celebrating our planet. Some recommended resources about Earth Day can be found below. In celebrating Earth Day, we must acknowledge that it is important to prioritize the Earth every day, not only on April 22nd, and we must remember the Indigenous Peoples that have been stewarding our planet and resources for generations.