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Tag: regenerative economy

Black Wind Farm: An investment in a veteran farmer’s journey to farmland ownership in New York

We are so proud to welcome Justin Butts to our portfolio. Justin is a first-generation, Navy veteran farmer with extensive and varied experience – he’s a farmer, a small business owner, and a chef. Hear Justin tell his story in this Sustainable Dish podcast episode.

Justin was the livestock manager at Soul Fire Farm, “an Afro-Indigenous centered community farm committed to uprooting racism and seeding sovereignty in the food system.” Soul Fire Farm’s wide-ranging and deeply impactful work was featured in Vogue in summer 2020 – read the article here. Justin continues his relationship with Soul Fire through their Braiding Seeds Fellowship, an in-depth mentorship & professional development program for farmers of color in collaboration with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives. Justin maintained a small animal herd on land leased in partnership with Laughing Earth Farm as he navigated his path toward farmland ownership. In regards to other farms and organizations that helped Justin along the way, he shares that “I would not be the farmer I am today without The Seed Farm,” an organization in Pennsylvania where he learned a lot of his initial skills as a farmer. Wilklow Orchards also helped by leasing Justin land during college and supplying the kitchen and storage space to start his soap business. 

We met Justin by referral from Local Farms Fund, a mission-aligned farmland investing company that owned the property Justin wanted to purchase. The 103 acre property is on a windy bluff in Albany County, New York and will be named Black Wind Farm. Justin has years of experience producing & selling artisanal soaps from his heritage Kune Kune breed hogs’ lard through his value-added business, Butts Bros Handmade Lard Soap. Justin’s expansive vision for the farm includes continuing the soap business as well as direct-to-consumer offerings of diversified livestock products, on-farm educational experiences, and habitat restoration.

He is also considering Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) carbon sequestration programs. Justin plans to plant a windbreak along the farm and restore four acres of wetlands and riparian habitat while maintaining perennial pasture. Justin is using management-intensive grazing techniques to rotate his herds and flocks of heritage breed pigs, sheep, broiler and laying chickens, and whole turkeys, in addition to growing produce. Justin intends to plant an orchard and fruiting shrubs that visitors to the farm can pick in a do-it-yourself program.

Working with Justin inspired Iroquois Valley to pilot an improved risk-assessment during the underwriting process which weighs land stewardship practices and community engagement along with financial metrics. Evolving our risk assessment is an intentional way to further broaden the way we approach partnerships and offers material support to more traditionally underserved borrowers. We look forward to deepening this work and continuously evolving how we share risk and offer support to the farmers in our network.

Eli’s Ridge: Pasture & forest-raised livestock in the heart of North Carolina

Shawn and Jennifer Hatley are fourth-generation farmers in Stanly County who raise sheep, pigs, cows, ducks, and chickens with their sons, Blake and Eli. The Hatleys apply sustainable and regenerative farming principles and work within a perennial pasture and forest-based farming system (also known as silvopasture) in Oakboro, a suburb of Charlotte. We approved financing for the Hatleys to purchase a 108-acre property from Shawn’s father, David Hatley, by the end of August, marking what will be Iroquois Valley’s first investment in North Carolina. This investment allows the younger generation of Hatleys to expand operations and take on ownership of their father’s land.

Although the Hatleys have experience with organic management, they have not pursued certification before, opting instead for Animal Welfare Approved. As a result of our investment, they will certify their land organic this coming year. Land stewardship is a prominent value to the Hatley family having partnered with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to protect a creek and riparian habitat on the property. They look forward to further conservation projects in years to come.

Building Community & Giving Back

Over the last decade, Shawn and Jennifer have created a collection of products and brands to bring value added farm products to market, including The Naked Pig Rendered Leaf Fat, Sun Raised Farms Lamb Salami, EggsbyEli.com, and Blake’s Creek Ranch beef. In July, the Hatleys purchased Rayfield Meat Center, a beloved country store and USDA inspected processing facility in neighboring Anson County, to vertically integrate operations. Rayfield Meat Center has been serving a diverse community for more than 50 years and the Hatleys plan to expand processing capacity through Rayfield Meats to serve more eaters and farmers in the region. The Hatleys also work with a nonprofit organization called My Father’s Cows, sourcing beef from local farmers for distribution through churches to people experiencing food insecurity. Their egg business, EggsbyEli, has a food ministry component, as well as pooling excess double-yolk and turkey eggs from their own and other local farmers in the area, delivering to the local feeding ministries. The Hatleys look forward to serving more with this investment from Iroquois.

Restoring the Agricultural Richness of Pembroke

Located one hour south of Chicago, the Pembroke Township in Illinois was once home to the largest Black farming community north of the Mason-Dixon line. Today, less than 50% of this land is owned by descendants of the farming families. Iroquois Valley, in partnership with Black Oaks Center, Savanna Institute, Conservation Fund, Food Finance Institute, and Fresh Taste, was awarded a Conservation Collaboration Grant in 2020 to support this farming community with the financial and technical resources necessary to expand and diversify the region’s agroforestry production. 

As part of this grant, Black Oaks Center recently hosted an Open House for all Pembroke landowners to attend and learn more about federal funding opportunities. Present at the event were Conservation Fund, Savanna Institute, Iroquois Valley, and Renewable Pembroke. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) was also available to sign up landowners for FSA programs – their first step in accessing National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) services. John Steven Bianucci, Iroquois Valley’s Director of Conservation, reported that over 25 landowners registered with the FSA. 

Overall, the event was a big success, increasing the momentum for Pembroke farming.

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.

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.

Press Release: Iroquois Valley’s Direct Public Offering

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.

Events

2021 Holiday Gift Guide

December 3, 2021
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.

News

Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT, PBC Announces Bill Stoddart as CEO and Christopher Zuehlsdorff as COO

July 28, 2022
Iroquois Valley is proud to announce the hiring of William “Bill” Stoddart as CEO, effective July 11th, 2022, and Christopher Zuehlsdorff as COO, effective July 25th, 2022.

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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