Farmland venture starts redemptions to first investors

Iroquois Valley Farms, one of the first ventures that raised investment monies to purchase and restore farmland, has successfully completed its initial phases and begun offering redemptions to its early investors.  Going forward, investors will be able to redeem their investments any time after a 7-year hold period.  The original 100 investors had bought in without knowing when, or if, they would get their money back, seeing this as a long-term investment in  Iroquois’ mission of preserving and providing access to farmland.  Having reached this point, Iroquois is gearing up to scale their project by raising $20 million in new investment (accredited investors only).

Since 2007, Iroquois has purchased 25 farms in Michigan, Maine, New York, Kentucky, Illinois and Indiana; 70% are being farmed by young farmers, most of them from second or third generation farming families.  As with the investors, the farmers leasing land from Iroquois have the right to move forward, by purchasing the farms after seven years of working them.  Likewise, they are welcome to continue leasing for as long as they’d like.

We love this model of farmland regeneration and ownership; kudos to Iroquois Valley Farms and its initial investors for showing that it can work for young farmers, for the land, and for investors. Visit their site to learn more; here are a couple of stories about farmers they’ve worked with:

The McMunigal family, one of the newer farm families, produces milk for Organic Valley. Mike and Callie, along with their two children, are returning the 175-acre Mystic River Farm in Monroe County, West Virginia to active use, focusing on pasture-based dairy production. The farm sits near the foothills of the Appalachian mountains, a region of growing interest for new farmers and the company.

Mike and Callie are not “twenty-somethings,” but in mid career. Mike has been a soil conservationist with the West Virginia Conservation Agency, advising dairy and livestock farmers on nutrient/manure management. He has a BS in Biology from Virginia Tech. Callie is a biologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and manages the Appalachian Partnership Office connected to the White Sulphur Springs National Fish Hatchery. She works with private landowners in both Virginias to implement habitat restoration projects. Their children, Cade and Maiya, represent the fifth generation of family farming in the area. Maiya particularly loves animals and enjoys helping with the milking chores.

ivf3Another farm, the Healing Ground farm in Kentucky, is in so many ways a metaphor for what Iroquois Valley Farms is doing for the soil, for healthy food, and for communities. Fred and Michael Lewis, two U.S. veterans, share Iroquois Valley Farms’ vision of returning soil to a naturally healthy and productive state. They farm holistically with organic practices incorporating pastured livestock and diversified vegetable operations on 120 leased acres. They will also be teaching other veterans, through the organization, Growing Warriors that sustainable agriculture does more than heal the soil. Their mission is educating disabled veterans how to run a sustainable farm and be a successful farming entrepreneur.

The Lewis brothers will be pasturing poultry and small livestock while incorporating a diverse array of vegetables and farm to table crops. Production will be targeted locally to nearby schools and through a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Returning veterans that have served our country are now serving their local communities and are a powerful voice in this battle to protect our environment and foods.

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