JACOB ISRAELOW, FOUNDER & MANAGING DIRECTOR
Jacob founded Dirt Capital Partners in 2013 as a platform to channel private investment in support of farmland access, conservation and long-term land security for sustainable farmers. The company’s innovative approach has been featured at the New York Times Food for Tomorrow Conference, the US Sustainable Investment Forum, the Slow Money National Gathering and various other gatherings of investors, farmers and food system advocates.
Jacob serves as a Board Director and was formerly Treasurer of the National Young Farmers Coalition, and on the New York Advisory Council of the American Farmland Trust. He is also an investor and advisor to several food companies in the Northeast US. Previously, Jacob was a Vice President at Goldman Sachs in Asia, where he spent five years acquiring and developing real estate and infrastructure on behalf of the firm.
Jacob has an MBA from Columbia Business School, an MA from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and a BA from Williams College. He lives in Chatham, NY with his wife and three children.
BENNETH PHELPS, DIRECTOR OF FARMER SERVICES
Benneth joined Dirt Capital Partners in 2016 as the Director of Farmer Services to further develop and refine the company’s approach to investing in land in partnership with farmers, and the company’s organizational culture and infrastructure.
Previously, Benneth was Loan and Business Assistance Manager at The Carrot Project, where she spent five years evaluating loan applications and working with farm and food enterprises to plan for business growth. Prior to this she farmed vegetables and small fruit in the Connecticut River Valley of Western Massachusetts, working on organic farms with 4-80 acres in production.
Benneth has served as a member of the Fund Advisory Committee of PVGrows, currently serves on the Loan Review Committee of The Carrot Project and as a Board Member of the Vermont Grass Farmers Association. She holds an MRP in community and regional planning from the University of Massachusetts, and a BA from Smith College where she studied American Studies and Economics.
REBECCA FERRY, FARMER SERVICES
Becky joined Dirt Capital Partners’ Farmer Services team in 2018 to coordinate activities in the New York area. This includes overseeing a growing portfolio of existing projects, working with farmers on new land acquisitions, and collaborating with project partners.
Prior to joining, Becky spent eleven years as a Loan Officer at Farm Service Agency, most recently in the 14-county territory from Clinton County south through Columbia, west to Montgomery and Schoharie Counties. She is co-owner with her sister of an 80-cow Jersey working dairy farm in Johnstown, NY.
Becky holds a bachelor’s degree in animal science with a concentration in finance from Cornell University. She currently resides in Johnstown, NY and serves in multiple roles in support of agriculture and dairy farming. Becky currently serves as Vice President of the New York State Jersey Cattle Club, is a former 4H Advisor and is a dairy cow judge and mentor for youth showing dairy cows.
JASON KENNY, FINANCE DIRECTOR
Jason joined Dirt Capital Partners in 2018 as the Finance Director to assist with the treasury and administrative needs of the business as it grows in complexity.
Previously, Jason spent three years as the CFO and CCO of Kings Peak Asset Management, a currency and rates-based investment manager in New York. Prior to this, he spent seven years at Metacapital Management, a fixed income investment manager in New York in a similar role. Jason has public accounting experience through his time spent as an auditor at Anchin, Block and Anchin.
He holds a Bachelors in Business Administration and Finance from Marist College and is a CPA. He currently resides in Philmont, NY and serves as the Treasurer of the Philmont Public Library.
JACOB ISRAELOW, CHAIR
Elisabeth Keller is President of Inglewood Plantation, LLC, a 3,600-acre farm in Louisiana that has been in her family since 1926. Until 2012, Inglewood was a conventional commodity crop and livestock operation. Five years ago, she initiated the transition of the farm toward a fully sustainable, organic farming enterprise that includes organic vegetables, grains and pecans, along with grass-fed beef and pastured pork. Inglewood is now the largest organic farm in Louisiana and sells produce and meat through farmers’ markets, CSA sales, restaurants, and wholesale channels.
From 2012-2017, Elisabeth was Chairman of the Board of Keller Enterprises, and she is a current Board Director at Murphy Oil Corp. She has adopted something of a farming approach to managing her personal portfolio of investments, considering this question: What do I want to grow that will be sustaining and life-giving to the community, the world and the planet? She is driven by the vision of a family company whose ventures create sustainable economic vitality, promote environmental stewardship, and strengthen the communities where they are based.
Elisabeth came to Keller Enterprises after working for many years in the field of public health as a certified nurse-midwife. She holds degrees from Williams College, Yale Divinity School and the Yale School of Nursing. Elisabeth spends her volunteer time working with organizations focused on health and education in East Africa. She serves on the boards of Re-Entry Solutions, an organization in Louisiana supporting citizens returning from incarceration, and CHERA (Community Health & Education in Rural Africa).
Tom spent the last 30 years working on innovative community-oriented projects that bring to life underutilized urban areas. As a founding principal of Equity Community Builders LLC (ECBSF.com) in 1993, he led the development and ongoing management of such award winning projects as the Thoreau Center for Sustainability in the Presidio of San Francisco, the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market in San Francisco and Cavallo Point Lodge in Sausalito. The firm, which has completed over $600 million in real estate projects, is committed to responsible development, and focuses on historic rehabilitation, non-profit multi-tenant centers, affordable housing and green building practices.
Tom also participates actively as an advisor to the non-profit sector and as an investor in social enterprises through his firm Highlands Associates (HighlandsSRI.com), which has a particular focus on local sustainable agriculture and food production. He believes that public/private partnerships and creatively structured, patient capital investment strategies provide a significant opportunity for serving both human and natural communities. He is co-founder and Board President of the New Field Foundation (Newfieldfound.org), which supports rural women’s groups and agro-ecological projects primarily in West Africa; and Trustee of the Tamalpais Trust (Tamtrust.org), which supports the strengthening of Indigenous People’s led initiatives and institutions that promote and serve traditional cultures, values, knowledge, rights, and lifeways.
He has always had a passion for learning about rural life and the natural world. After graduating from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1973, he worked on a dairy farm in Bridport, Vermont and then owned a farm in Quebec, both of which were inspiring, but humbling, experiences. He studied landscape design at the Conway School in Massachusetts, and has deep roots in New England where he grew up.