Pasture at The Little Farm by the Sea in Grays Harbor County, WA. Through our Soil Restoration Pool, we funded a grant for the Bebee Milhollen family to plant a wind row of forage. A forage wind row serves a dual purpose to shield the pasture from the strong south and southeast winds, while providing food for their grazing animals. This wind row is one step further in developing the farm's silvopasture system. In the future, this wind row will include a row of thornless honey locust trees, an understory of mulberries, and forage. The trees and taller plants will take advantage of the morning marine layer and create a drip system for the forage below.
Our 15th Harvest
As we enter our 15th year of business, we are struck by how much change we've seen over the years. Organic and regenerative agriculture are becoming more mainstream -- awareness around these concepts has grown exponentially. More people than ever care about the way their food is grown. Throughout the pandemic, we've seen folks directly engage with the food system in new ways. And yet, there are persistent challenges that organic farmers continue to face. As much as things have changed, our core mission remains incredibly relevant.

We started this business to offer organic farmers land security. We began with long-term leases that offer relief during the organic transition after realizing that the predominant lease terms offered by individual landowners tend to be annual. Operating on a year-to-year lease can discourage farmers from transitioning to organic because the transition requires significant investment in the land over three years. Even after organic certification, the land continues to recover and farmers begin to hit their stride. We know that farmers need long-term land security in order to invest in long-term land stewardship.

As the years went on, we were approached by farmers with different needs in new regions. In 2016, we began offering mortgage financing. Farmers sometimes struggled to get loans from their banks who viewed organic agriculture as more risky than conventional operations; other farmers were highly leveraged and needed refinancing to maintain land security on more favorable terms. Mortgages also allowed us to do business in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa for the first time -- these states have anti-corporate ownership laws that make it impossible for Iroquois Valley to offer leases to farmers in those states.

Our business continues to grow and evolve as we respond to farmer need. In 2019, we began piloting operating lines of credit. These were developed after hearing the experiences of farmers who, again, struggled to get capital because of their organic businesses. Although we see more traditional lenders opening up to organic operations and reevaluating their risk analysis procedures, we hear far too often from farmers who are unable to secure supportive financing. Our portfolio now includes nine lines of credit extended to farmers already in our portfolio.

As we look ahead, we remain as committed as ever to our work supporting organic farmers. Faced with pandemic, climate change, and an economic downturn, we believe now is the time for bold ideas. Our ecosystems cannot wait for traditional financing to get up to speed. As our co-founder & CEO, Dave Miller, frequently says, "there's no liquidity on a dead planet." We have always been problem solvers -- this year, we've received record support from investors who are stepping up to throw their weight behind solutions.

We are proud to celebrate the momentum of a record-breaking fundraising year in 2020. We raised $12 million last year in REIT equity shares, which is roughly 40% higher than in 2019. This capital, combined with a steady stream of Soil Restoration Note investments, allowed the Company to add more assets, diversify, and scale our impact. We also began reporting on our impact in a new way that reflects our status as a Public Benefit Corporation, dedicated to creating public benefit by enabling healthy food production, restoring soil, and improving water quality through establishing secure farmland tenure. Look for our 2020 public benefit report in the second quarter.

Today, our portfolio is valued at approximately $70 million and represents partnerships with 58 farm businesses, comprising nearly 14,000 acres in 15 states. Here's to a new year of growing and evolving, with deep gratitude to all who support us.
2020: A record-breaking year for fundraising
This chart shows fundraising year over year. As of January 15, our unaudited financials show that our capital stack is made up of $48.4 million in equity, $16.6 million in notes, and $4.2 million in traditional bank financing. Our assets total $69.2 million.
In 2020, we received 135 unique investments -- the most of any year in Company history. These investments ranged from $10,115 to $4 million and were made directly or through advisors. These investments included existing investors adding capital and investors who made a commitment for the first time. Seventy of our fundraising came from first time investors in 2020.

This year’s fundraising priorities are no different than the last: we look forward to funding one farm at a time with the investment support of a broad base of mission-aligned investors. By strengthening our balance sheet, growing our staff, and launching new collaborations, we are excited to continue our work in 2021 in broader and more impactful ways. In turn, these improved capacities support our efforts to deliver value and increased profit to our investors.

If you are interested in learning more about our investment offerings or adding capital to a previous investment, please reach out to Alex Mackay, Vice President of Investor Relations. Our REIT equity offering is expected to close for a few weeks in late April as our share price is updated and the SEC completes its annual review of our offering. We’d love to make a connection prior to that date, otherwise, we will be selling equity at a new share price as soon as the SEC re-qualifies our offering in late spring/early summer.
Direct support to farmers we work with through the Soil Restoration Pool program
The Soil Restoration Pool is a feature of our Soil Restoration Note investment offering. With these notes, Iroquois Valley pays 0.5% of the principal balance directly into a grant pool to benefit our farmers in addition to the 2.25% paid to investors. In 2020, we funded 15 farmer-proposed projects that totaled $50,000.

Our farmers apply for grants from the Soil Restoration Pool on a semi-annual basis. These funds are available for all soil-building projects, including the integration of livestock grazing into an organic cropping system and rotation, which was implemented at Vilicus Farms through Soil Restoration Pool funding.

Paul Neubauer, foreman at Vilicus Farms in Montana shares:

The project: Integrating livestock grazing into our organic cropping system and rotation.

The goal: To increase soil health, increase crop and crop management diversity, increase diversity of income streams to the farm and to provide opportunities for young farmers, such as myself, to build a business.

The details: Our standard practice is to harvest these green manures with tillage tools in order to feed the soil. This year, we have begun to perform that same harvest, for building soil health, with grazing cattle. In this way we have increased the income derived from the green manure phase of the crop rotation, while reducing fuel and equipment maintenance costs, and simultaneously maintaining and perhaps improving the soil health benefits of our green manure cover crops. This will be an ongoing project to incorporate grazing into the entire farm which will take years of work and investment.
Swathed cover crop
The water truck, known as Clifford
Electric fence energizer
Cattle grazing swaths
The results: Thus far the most valuable lesson we have learned is that it is indeed possible, with some creative planning, to achieve your green manure cover crop goals as well as feed cattle. We swathed our green manures at the point of maturity where they would contribute the most to the soil, and the left those swaths laying in the field to cure like hay. From there, we have been using electric fencing and holistic planned grazing practices to feed the cattle on that swathed feed everyday. This has been an important step because it is essential that integration of livestock add value and effectiveness to our cropping system, not make the crops less valuable or harder to manage.
New farms in our portfolio
Iroquois Valley has made a few investments in the last quarter. We will be sharing some of their stories in upcoming newsletters. A warm welcome to these new farmers in the Iroquois Valley network.

We are also pleased to continue working with farmers already in our network. We funded new investments for these returning farmers:

  • Andy & Catie Ambriole at Bio-Steward Farms in Huntington County, IN
  • Chuck & Natasha Ford at Ford Farms in Boone County, IN

We continue to connect with a healthy pipeline of organic farmers interested in expanding their operations through a lease, mortgage, or operating line of credit. We are excited for the next few months of underwriting and finance as we meet with current and prospective farmers introducing us to new opportunities.
As a corporate guideline,  we do not look for specific farmland to purchase or finance. We develop relationships with organic farmers who want to grow their farm businesses. We move forward when we have a ready, willing and able farmer. 
Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT | Public Benefit Corporation  
 Certified  B Corporation | Est. 2007