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