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.

Iroquois Valley awarded a 2019 Conservation Innovation Grant

Iroquois Valley was awarded a $700,000 Conservation Innovation Grant from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS). Our project will focus on supporting our farmers beyond land tenure through operating capital and improving farm viability.

The funding is provided through the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program, which is funding the future of agriculture and conservation through grants to organizations and universities that are developing the next generation of tools and technologies to boost conservation on agricultural lands. The 2019 CIG recipients can be found here.

Holiday Gift Guide

Iroquois Valley is pleased to release its first annual holiday gift guide, featuring products grown by our farmers. All products below can be purchased online. View the gift guide as a PDF here.

Make sure to check our Instagram & Facebook pages for more gift ideas from our farmers available at select farmers markets.

Organic Milled Grains
Meadowlark Organics – Wisconsin
Visit their online store here
Organic Milled Grains & Gift Boxes 
Janie’s Mill – Illinois
View their gift boxes here and visit their online store here
Chocolate Freeze Dried Aronia Berries
Boone County Organics – Iowa
Visit their online store here
Organic Black Beluga Lentils
Vilicus Farms – Montana
Visit the Timeless Foods online store here
Prairie Pasture Raised Meat & Eggs
Mint Creek Farm – Illinois
Email csa@mintcreekfarm.com to reserve holiday meats
Sign up for a Meat CSA
Vermont Country Comfort Frozen Beef Box
Vermont Natural Beef
Visit their online store here

Organic farmers to harvest record acres in 2019

Organic agriculture is growing – in 2019, 8.3 million acres were planted and certified organic in the US. This equates to 18,155 organic farms and a 3% jump from 2018. Mercaris, a leading data provider for organic and non-gmo markets, recently released their Annual Acreage Report and Organic Farm Heat Map, which highlights density and distribution of US organic farm operations.

Highlights of the report include:

  • Organic grain farmers will harvest a record amount of acres in 2019, measuring in at 3.1 million acres.
  • This represents a 7% increase in organic field crop production from 2018.
  • The largest increases in organic harvested field crop acres this year were in the West and High Plains.
The Organic Farm Heat Map

Read the press announcement about the Annual Acreage Report from Mercaris here.

Foundations Can Unlock a Food System to Feed the World

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.

Read the full article here.

If We Want to Change Our Food System, We Need to Change Our Finance System

Heritage breed pigs at Yker Acres Farm in Carlton County, MN

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.

Key quotes:

  • 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.

Read our piece in B The Change here.

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.

Events

“We’re part of the solution: #fornature”: Celebrating the International Day for Biodiversity

On May 22nd, the U.N.-sponsored International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) was celebrated around the world. The IDB reminds us that biodiversity is the solution to several sustainable development challenges, including food security, climate change, and health issues.

Read more

News

A Conversation with Chicory Wealth

Chicory Wealth, one of the registered investment advisors in our financial advisor network, recently hosted Alex Mackay, our VP, Investor Relations, for a conversation about investment opportunities at Iroquois Valley.

Read more

What We're Reading

Financing organic farmers: opportunity intertwined with a challenge

We are pleased to announce Donna Holmes as our new VP, Investor Relations. Donna has recently been featured in Chicago’s Daily Herald: Business Ledger.

Read more

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