Iroquois Valley was featured in the Swift Foundation‘s piece for Stanford Social Innovation Review’s Summer 2019 issue. Their article looks at a few organizations, including California FarmLink and RSF Social Finance, who are working to support regional food systems through finance. It also identifies a role for foundations to accelerate investment into food system transformation.
While organic farming is growing, only 1% of all U.S. farmland is farmed organically. We’re looking to change that by providing secure, long-term land access for regenerative farmers.
Our investment theory is that land security enables land stewardship — we believe that farmers will thrive when they’re backed by long-term capital that shares risk.
In our experience, there’s no shortage of farmers who want to farm organically and regeneratively. The challenge lies in accessing the resources needed for farm viability: land access, capital, and markets. Farmers need systemic support in order to change agriculture and build the regenerative food and farming system we know can exist.
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.
Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT, PBC is recognized as a “Best For The World” B Corp for customers, governance and overall.
Iroquois Valley, a Certified B Corporation, has been named a Best For The World honoree in recognition of their significant positive impact in their innovative governance structures, supportive customer service, and across all categories. Ranking in the top 10% of all B Corps for their overall impact, Iroquois Valley earned this honor because of their overall mission, ethics, and promotion of public benefit.
“We’re incredibly proud of this year’s Best For The World honorees,” says Anthea Kelsick, Chief Marketing Officer of B Lab. “These inspiring companies represent the kinds of business models and impact-driven business strategies that are building a new economy—one that is inclusive, regenerative, and delivers value to all stakeholders, not just shareholders. To that end, B Corps like Iroquois Valley are redefining capitalism and showing that it actually can work for everyone.”
1,000 B Corps from 44 countries were named to the 2019 Best For The World lists, including Patagonia, Beautycounter, Dr. Bronner’s, TOMS, Seventh Generation, and Greyston Bakery. The 2019 Best For The World honorees are determined based on the verified B Impact Assessments of Certified B Corporations. The full lists are available on https://bcorporation.net/.
As a B Corp and Public Benefit Corporation, Iroquois Valley has long been committed to creating positive triple bottom line impacts. We’re grateful to be part of a community that recognizes business should consider all stakeholders, including people and planet.
We’re glad to see that these ideas have gone mainstream with the Business Rountable’s recent announcement about the role of business in creating value for all stakeholders. The founders of the B Corp movement weighed in on this shift with their ideas around ensuring this announcement leads to action.
Key quote: “While it is appropriate to note, even celebrate, the Business Roundtable’s announcement as a sign of an accelerating culture shift, it is important to recognize that the people who are demanding this shift are demanding action. People want to buy from, work for, and invest in companies that serve a higher purpose than maximizing profit at any cost to people, communities, and the natural world on which all life depends. People are demanding a new social contract between business and society in which business and the capital markets create long-term value for all stakeholders.”
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 Institute, Pipeline Foods, and more who are doing important work to support regenerative agriculture through the value chain.
Retail investors can now directly invest in organic farmland through Iroquois Valley’s Direct Public Offering (DPO). The DPO provides a long-term investment opportunity targeting market rate returns for the asset class while supporting healthy food production, environmental stewardship, and prosperity for independent farmers and their communities.
“We want to mobilize the public to invest directly in small farmers and participate in building a healthier agricultural system,” says CEO & Co-Founder, David Miller. “The DPO is about investors of all kinds coming together to support a healthy farm economy from soils, to food, to farmers.”
By purchasing stock through this DPO, investors gain direct exposure to a diversified portfolio of organic farmland while supporting independent farmers and their businesses. With an accessible minimum investment just above $10,000, the DPO accelerates Iroquois Valley’s ability to raise capital, expand its farmland portfolio, improve corporate profitability, grow investor returns, and support farmers regenerating the soil and the food system.
Director of Business Development & Investor Relations, Alex Mackay says, “we have been waiting many years to include investors who have shown passion for what we’re doing but couldn’t participate because of the minimums or the net worth threshold. It’s very exciting that we can offer our REIT Equity Shares to folks who want to directly support organic farmers while investing in a real asset for the long-term.”
Iroquois Valley is a real estate investment trust providing secure land access to transitioning and organic farmers. Founded in 2007, it has relied on capital from approximately 400 accredited investors who have grown the portfolio to above $50 million. Iroquois Valley provides 40+ families with farmland tenure on over 12,000 acres in 14 states. Incorporated as both a Certified B Corp and Public Benefit Corporation, Iroquois Valley is committed to supporting farmers growing healthy food and building healthy soil.
We recently became one of the first companies to undergo an Impact Management Assessment by Aeris. This assessment evaluates a fund’s impact management capacity by focusing on impact management systems and processes as the strongest indicator of the fund’s ability to make investments in alignment with its stated impact thesis and to achieve its impact goals. Aeris’ methodology has been established and refined through performing impact management and financial analyses and ratings of CDFIs for the past 15 years, and has been essential in making impact investing more accessible for institutional investors. It recently extended its impact assessments to investment companies and funds across asset classes.
We’re proud to share our recently released assessment, based on December 2018 results. This report provides third-party verification of Iroquois Valley’s impact practices. It joins our B Corp assessment and expands our commitment to transparency through rigorous, independent evaluation of our work.
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.
During the last week of May, a handful of Iroquois Valley staff members visited a few of the farms and families that have been a part of our story since the beginning. The field trip was a great opportunity for our newer and more remote staff to have a hands-on orientation and see the transformation happening in the Chicago-area foodshed. North Central Illinois may not be well known for organic and regenerative agriculture, but the movement is growing there quickly. When Iroquois Valley bought its first farm in Iroquois County in 2007, there were less than 500 acres farmed organically there – today, there are over 5,000. We went down to farm country to see that change in action.
The day started with a pit stop at Hewn Bakery in Evanston – Hewn supports local and organic farmers, using their flours to create delicious baked goods. Two of Iroquois Valleys’ farm families (Janie’s Farm & Meadowlark Organics) are among those whose specialty grain flours are used at Hewn. The co-founder of Hewn, Ellen King, wrote a book called Heritage Baking about baking with specialty grains and the growers who raise them.
We visited Mint Creek Farm, a diversified farm raising livestock on pasture. Mint Creek raises entirely grass-fed cattle and sheep along with pasture-raised hogs, goats, and chickens for meat and eggs. Mint Creek Farm takes inspiration from biodynamic principles that view farms as holistic organisms where the soil, the ecosystem, and the farmers work together to thrive. Mint Creek Farm is surrounded by crop operations, making its restoration of native grassland ecosystems where animals graze all the more unique. For those in the Chicago area, you can find Mint Creek at local farmers markets and attend dinners at the farm prepared by a Chicago chef. Learn more about our partnership with Mint Creek Farm by reading their farm profile here and see their farm dinner schedule here.
We continued to The Mill at Janie’s Farm, where we toured the stone ground mill and saw white winter wheat being milled into bread flour. The mill has allowed Janie’s Farm to process the grains they grow and sell a high quality, value-added product. The Wilkens raise specialty milling grains and mill them into flours that are used in Chicago area bakeries and restaurants. Learn more about our partnership with Janie’s Farm by reading their farm profile here and learn more about Iroquois Valley’s history with the Wilkens here.
We completed our farm tour at Red Barn Farm, one of the Brockman Family Farms. Red Barn Farm is home to milking goats, an orchard, and more. While we don’t work directly with the Brockmans on land access, they are central to Iroquois Valley’s founding. The Brockmans introduced our co-founder, Dave Miller, to our first farmer, Harold Wilken. For more on the history between the Brockman family and Iroquois Valley, see our newsletter on the topic. We wrapped up the day at Dave Miller’s own farmhouse in Danforth, IL where everyone contributed to a home cooked meal of soup, burgers, and cornbread made with local ingredients from some of the farms we visited.
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.
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 […]
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.