Tag: organic agriculture

The Promises & Perils of Regenerative Agriculture

Photo by Cornelia Li

One of the most common questions we get asked is whether we differentiate between regenerative agriculture and organic agriculture when financing our farms. Our standard response is that the term “regenerative agriculture” is still in development and does not have a definition that is agreed upon across the industry. In contrast, we believe the USDA Organic certification offers a clear and comprehensive basis for farmers to participate and be distinguished in the marketplace. 

That being said, we frequently work with farmers pursuing further certification that fit their operations, including Regenerative Organic Certification. Our portfolio currently includes farms that are Bee Better certified, Real Organic Project certified, and distinguished as a Savory Hub. Other farms in the portfolio are inspired by Biodynamic principles and are exploring that certification as well. 

Regenerative Agriculture Needs a Reckoning” by Joe Fassler is a thought-provoking article that discusses the lack of consensus on what constitutes regenerative agriculture and more. One particularly profound passage is highlighted below. We’d highly recommend reading through the entire article as Fassler considers the essence of regenerative agriculture and the social movements it impacts.

Make no mistake: In this [the conversation of defining “regenerative”], something crucial is being negotiated. The debate over what regenerative agriculture means, and who gets to decide, spills over into the issues we care most about. It touches on our changing relationship to science and technology, on access and antitrust reform, on workers’ rights and racial injustice, on conceptions of the natural world and our place in it. It’s a conversation that forces you to draw a bigger circle, only to realize that circle isn’t big enough.  

Let’s say, at heart, everyone agrees on one thing: Regenerative agriculture means farming in a way that makes the whole world better. If that’s the case, maybe the most telling thing isn’t your attitude on cover cropping or rotational grazing. Maybe the most telling thing is how large you think the whole is, and who and what gets to benefit from inclusion in it.

Animal welfare at Iroquois Valley partner farms

Heritage pigs grazing at Singing Pastures, one of our partner farms in Maine

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 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. 

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.

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.

2018 SRI Conference: The 29th Annual Conference for Sustainable, Responsible & Impact Investing

Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT is excited to sponsor the 2018 SRI Conference in Colorado Springs! This marks the eighth consecutive year that Iroquois Valley will be attending and the fifth straight year as a sponsor of the event. SRI brings together the largest group of socially responsible investment advisors in the country, and Iroquois Valley Founder and CEO Dave Miller is excited to be reconnecting with many of the financial professionals that helped build the Company into the $50 million REIT it is today!

We will be in attendance November 1-4, 2018, stop by our booth to say hello and learn more about our work. Iroquois Valley Director of Business Development Alex Mackay will also be attending and helping Dave spread the world about our pending Public Offering of REIT Equity Shares with a lower minimum of $10,000. Please visit our invest page to learn more. It will be the first time we get to show off our brand new website, so it should make for a very exciting week in Colorado Springs.

Civil Eats: Can an Investment Firm Help Increase U.S. Organic Farmland?

Iroquois Valley was featured in a Civil Eats article, “Can an Investment Firm Help Increase U.S. Organic Farmland?” for our work to help scale organic agriculture in America. The article features interviews with farmers we work with at Vilicus Farm, Creambrook Farm, and Richview Farms.

Some key takeaways from the article:

  • Demand for organic products is increasing in the US, but organic acreage has not increased at the same rate. Iroquois Valley is changing that by financing farmland for organic farmers.
  • We want to scale up and impact more farmers. We currently have over 50 farms in our portfolio, but want to grow to hundreds of farms.
  • We need more investors to help us build the movement we believe in. We are opening a Regulation A+ offering that will allow public investors to invest in our mission.

Read the full article on Civil Eats to learn about our plans to scale up and support more organic farmers transitioning U.S. soils to organic.

Events

Iroquois Valley presented at the 2021 Regenerative Food Systems Investment Forum

October 8, 2021
The 2021 Regenerative Food Systems Investment (RFSI) Forum was held September 28-29 in Oakland, CA, and we were honored to have two of our staff members present at the conference. The RFSI Forum catalyzes conversation, advances education, and drives increased investment in regenerative agriculture and food, and attendees include global stakeholders that are committed to transforming our food system.

News

Iroquois Valley recognized as 2021 Best for the World B Corp

August 18, 2021
Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT, PBC is proud to announce our recognition as a Best for the World B Corp: Governance for 2021. This award honors Iroquois Valley for our exemplary governance and commitment to long-term stakeholder-minded business practices.

What We're Reading

Iroquois Valley joins Will County, IL farm alliance to improve soil health, water quality and local economies

August 20, 2021
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.  

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