908 ACRES, Five FARMS, and $2.85+ million invested in 2017
In 2017 Dirt Capital continued to invest in farms in the Northeast, growing from 10 to 15 total investments. Dirt Capital invested in five farm real estate transactions totaling 908 acres with $2.85+ million committed to the projects. Three farms are located in New York, one in Vermont and one in Maine. These 2017 investments are primarily organic, no-grain and low-grain pasture-based animal operations carrying organic or organic and grass-fed certifications. Two market their diversified, value-added products, primarily beef and cheese directly to consumers, while three ship organic & organic grass-fed fluid milk to Northeast-based milk and yogurt brands or agricultural cooperatives. These include Dharma Lea Farm, Hidden Meadows Dairy, Tail Feather Farm, NOME Dairy, and Moxie Ridge Farm and Creamery. Case studies for several of these are available here.
FARMER PARTNER & DIRT CAPITAL PRESS MENTIONS
Go Get Your Boots Dirty – American Farmland Trust
DIRT CAPITAL’S CONTRIBUTION TO THE FIELD
2017 was a special year for national conferences and initiatives on farm viability, farmland transfer and conservation investing. We actively participated in several of these, including:
The report examines ways the federal agency USDA-Natural Resource Conservation Service and conservation investors can collaborate to increase conservation outcomes. Five specific recommendations are made, such as reducing transaction costs by aggregating smaller projects. Dirt Capital provided input and insight from our work on the ground with farmers and existing NRCS programs.
Benneth and Jacob joined three panels on farmland access, financing and transfer at the 3rd Annual National Farm Viability Conference. Including a panel on Structures, Tools, and Partnerships to Finance Pathways to Ownership. The conference, held in 2017 in Albany, NY draws farm advisors from around the US.
Jacob participated on a plenary panel titled “Money” at the Slow Money National Gathering held at the Boulder Theater in Boulder, Colorado. Eric Becker of Clean Yield Asset Management led the discussion, which also included Esther Park of Cienega Capital, Leslie Christian of NorthStar Asset Management, and Mark Lewis of Lewis Family Farm.
Benneth attended the Changing Lands, Changing Hands Conference with over 220 attendees from 40 states in Denver, Colorado. The conference focused on issues in farmland transfer. Benneth’s presentation focused on non-traditional approaches to farmland investment and the objectives and strategies of Dirt Capital that ensure farm viability and farm conservation.
Jacob participated on a panel titled “Investing In Rural Communities and Small City America” along with Darrin Williams (CEO of Southern Bancorp), Patrick Doherty (Co-Founder and President of Long Haul Capital Advisors) and Thomas Croft (Executive Director of the Steel Valley Authority and Managing Director of Heartland Capital Strategies). The US SIF is an annual event and one of the largest gatherings of impact investors in the country.
Benneth presented on a panel, “Capitalizing the Balance Sheet Through Collaboration,” with moderator Tim Veazey of Lincoln Financial Advisors. Panelists included Todd Hathorn and Clayton Wood of Ivy Lakes Dairy/Hathorn Farms, Loren Herod of Community Bank, and Tom Facer of Farm Fresh First. The panel looked at examples of successful family and non-family generational transfers in New York State.
Jacob presented Dirt’s model at the Harvard Center for the Environment with 40+ leading conservation finance practitioners from around the region. His talk, titled “De-Risking Investment in Sustainable Farms: Partner with Good Farmers!”, showcased some of our projects and how we partner with land trusts, service providers, agricultural lenders and state economic development agencies to make projects happen.
Benneth was a panelist in three breakout sessions at this annual conference in Maine for farmers and service providers that support land access for farmers. Benneth’s sessions covered how farmers should prepare to buy or sell a farm business, financing options and financial readiness, and innovative farm transfer strategies including case studies from our work in Maine.
Benneth joined a workshop led by Holly Rippon-Butler of the National Young Farmers Coalition for NJ-based land trust staff and other service providers interested in keeping farmers on the land. The event was held at Duke Farms and organized by the NJ Land Trust Network and the Foodshed Alliance. Benneth led a discussion titled “Successful Succession” using a recent case study, and described the tools and strategies we use to make projects happen on the ground.
Benneth traveled to Portland, Oregon in September 2017 to present Dirt Capital’s model at the first of three convenings of regional stakeholders to discuss how impact investing can support farmland access and ownership transitions to young farmers with regenerative practices. Benneth has also participated (remotely) in the two follow-up meetings, and continued engagement with various stakeholders to discuss how our model can be applied there. These meetings have been led and facilitated by Nellie McAdams, Farm Preservation Program Director at Rogue Farm Corps.
Dirt Capital Partners is a project partner and participant in an emerging network of individuals and organizations dedicated to mobilizing capital to advance regenerative agriculture. This work is funded by the USDA-NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant and led by the Delta Institute.
Benneth is an advisor to a project led by the National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) and funded by a USDA Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program Grant. The overarching goal for this project is to enable beginning farmers and ranchers across the country to make informed financial decisions during the process of accessing land so that they will have a solid framework on which to build strong, sustainable farm businesses. It includes development of an online Land Affordability Calculator for farmers, and a series of webinars and trainings, which will include Benneth as a presenter.
Jacob and Benneth participated in this invite-only meeting of regional stakeholders convened by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, which brought together regional food systems investors, funders, and financial intermediaries to discuss the current state of investment in the sector.
Jacob spoke with Yale MBA and Forestry students about Dirt Capital’s work investing in sustainable farmers in the Northeast.