We’re often asked why Iroquois Valley invests in operations that include livestock. Animal agriculture is an incredibly complex topic and it looks different across farms and across the food system.
We support farmers who raise animals in ways that regenerate our soils and our ecosystems by only partnering with farmers who raise animals on pastures managed organically. There is an alternative to the dominant industrial animal agriculture system and it needs support. Animals are essential to life on this planet, particularly in the ways they support soil and the carbon cycle. Management matters and offers solutions. For those who choose to eat meat, we hope they find farmers like ours in their community who are thoughtful in their work with the land. We developed a guide to animal welfare on our farms that you can read here. It offers our approach to supporting animal agriculture and shares stories from our farmer partners.
Iroquois Valley is reimagining a food and finance system that puts farmer land stewards at the center. Our financial products support long-term land security so that farmers can invest in the land, our ecosystems, and maintain financial viability in a food system where small and mid-sized farmers compete against large corporate interests. There is an alternative system and we are committed to our role in building it.
Iroquois Valley is proud to share its annual gift guide featuring products grown by the farmers we partner with – 2020 has been unlike any other year and we hope it has deepened your connection to what nourishes you. This year’s gift guide is illustrated by Evanston-based artist, Hannah Bess Rosswho sells prints, cards, and ceramics here. Scroll through for products available across the country as well as products available in certain locales (WA, MI, MN). Warm wishes for a healthy and joyous holiday season!
Iroquois Valley’s Soil Restoration Notes are an innovative conservation financing tool that provides investors a return and enables farmers to invest in the land. These notes specifically target support for soil health and the organic transition. This work was partially funded by a Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Conservation Innovation Grant.
Conservation Innovation Grants are three-year grants – ours was funded in 2016 and was completed in September 2019. Our final report shares information about our project to develop Soil Restoration Notes and directly support farmers for their soil-building work. In the Soil Restoration Notes’ first iteration in 2017, we raised a little over $2 million and deployed $3,134 to farmers through the Soil Restoration Pool, a mechanism that pays 0.5% interest into a pool for farmers as investors accrue interest through their investment. Since then, we’ve raised over $20 million in investor capital – this year, the Soil Restoration Pool reached $50,000 and funded soil health and conservation projects for 15 farmers.
A NEW MODEL FOR SHARING RISK: CHANGING THE FARM FINANCE SYSTEM
Other report highlights include lessons learned throughout the project and ways we are looking to build on this work in the future.
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 arecleaner, 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.
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.”
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 research, farmer 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.
This week, the Rock Creek Farmhouse was designated a historic landmark and the Midwestern contingent of the Iroquois Valley team hosted a socially distant gathering to celebrate. The house is one of 57 historic landmarks in Will County, Illinois.
Last spring, Iroquois Valley planted 10,000 trees at Rock Creek to create a windbreak. The trees planted at this event replaced some that had not made it through the hot and dry spells over the summer.
At the event, the team planted trees and enjoyed a meal cooked by Dan Weiland, a Chicago-based chef. He shares, “As a chef, your meals are only as great as the ingredients you use. I had the privilege of cooking at Rock Creek for some wonderful people who brought some amazing meats, grains, and produce. To know where your food comes from creates a greater connection and respect for the environment and for the hard working people who grow it.”
In the future, we plan to host events at Rock Creek for folks interested in agroforestry and organic agriculture.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com.
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 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.
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.