Rodale Invests in Organic Farmers

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An agri-penuer working with Main Street Project, a beneficiary of Iroquois Valley. Photo courtesy of Main Street Project.

Kutztown, PA—Rodale Institute is investing $2 million with Iroquois Valley Farmland Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT), a farmland finance company that works with mission-driven investors to provide land security to organic and regenerative farmers through long-term leases and mortgages, according to a press release.

The Board of Directors at Rodale approved the decision, the press release says. The money comes from the organization’s endowment fund and general operating budget.

The investment is an effort to increase land access for organic farmers across the country and boost organic acreage. It makes Rodale Institute one of the top 5 shareholders in Iroquois Valley, allowing the institute to support organic farmers while stewarding its assets and growing its endowment.

“Rodale Institute has always been committed to socially responsible investing,” said Maya Rodale, Co-Chair of Rodale Institute’s Board of Directors, in the press release. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to invest with Iroquois Valley, whose mission to put more organic farmers on more organic acres couldn’t be more in line with ours. We are taking the opportunity to make a difference in the world with our investments—because the future is organic.”

“Investing in farmland is an excellent addition to our already diverse portfolio,” added Elaine Macbeth, Rodale Institute’s Chief Financial Officer. “This addition allows for more stability in our portfolio and creates an investment that is inflation-resistant during adverse market conditions while upholding the mission we work towards every day.”

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The organic market reached $55 billion in the U.S. in 2019, but the press release notes that only 1% of U.S. farmland is certified organic. Land access and capital prevent more farmers from turning organic, and prevents people from becoming farmers in the first place. Iroquois Valley seeks to break down those barriers by purchasing farmland and entering into a lease agreement with or underwriting a mortgage for organic farmers looking to start or expand their operation. The company’s portfolio currently includes over 60 farms on more than 13,000 acres in 15 states.

Directly impacted by Rodale’s investment: Main Street Project, a nonprofit based in Northfield, Minnesota, that uses a poultry-based regenerative system to develop farming opportunities for Latinx immigrants working in the food system. The press release explains that Iroquois Valley was able to scale up the project’s model to a 100-acre farm where the organization can document the economic, ecological, and social impacts of regenerative livestock on a family-farm level.

“One of our founding goals at Iroquois Valley was simply to support organic farmers in growing their businesses and stewarding more land,” explained Iroquois Valley co-founder and board chair, Dr. Stephen Rivard, in the press release. “We believe that more land in organic production is essential to changing both our food and healthcare systems. Rodale Institute’s investment will allow us to deploy more capital to organic and transitioning farmers who are building healthy soils and supporting healthy outcomes for people & planet. We are proud to partner with Rodale Institute and work together toward an organic future.”

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