Soil Wealth Areas

Soil Wealth Areas are new special purpose financing districts that help connect farmers and entrepreneurs with technical assistance and mission-aligned capital providers that value the social and environmental benefits associated with conservation, equitable food and farming systems, regenerative agroecology, and resilient rural communities.

Soil Wealth Areas build upon the successes of other agricultural districts, such as conservation districts and farmland protection districts. They are inherently place-based and locally governed by diverse groups of regional practitioners and stakeholders, including farmers, agricultural cooperatives, conservation and community-led organizations, value-chain businesses, food hubs, food and farming advocacy groups, food policy councils, researchers, and other aligned local and regional initiatives.

By being based in place, Soil Wealth Areas can be more responsive to the needs of local producers and entrepreneurs and help ensure that capital providers interested in investing in conservation and regenerative, organic value chains are aligned with the imperatives of more ecologically resilient and socially inclusive food and agricultural systems.

In close collaboration and consultation with a growing group of partners, Croatan Institute has analyzed the feasibility of developing Soil Wealth Areas in multiple regions around the United States. Based on these assessments and pilot projects, we are now working collaboratively with partners on the implementation of Soil Wealth Areas in specific places, including in North Carolina in the South and Wisconsin in the Midwest, and we are exploring further opportunities to establish them on the West Coast and in the Northeast.

The initial feasibility assessment for Soil Wealth Areas from 2020 to 2022 was funded by a major Conservation Innovation Grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and a growing group of mission-aligned philanthropic funders. Findings from our feasibility phase can be found in “Soil Wealth Areas: Place-based Financing for Conservation, Rural Communities, and Regenerative Agriculture.

For more information about establishing Soil Wealth Areas in your region or learn more about this initiative, please contact us

Project Partners & Funders

Soil Wealth Areas are being developed with a diverse and growing group of place-based partners, funders, investors, farmers, rural development and community organizations, and technical advisors.

The initial USDA-funded feasibility phase of work formally integrated feedback from 40 farms across more than 25,800 acres in North Carolina, northern California, Oregon, Virginia, and Wisconsin, including Bender Farms, Crews Family Farm, Free Union Farms, Miss Grace Farms, Oliver’s Agroforest, 15 farms affiliated with Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative, and 19 farms affiliated with Agriculture Capital on the west coast.

Soil Wealth Areas have also been informed by a Working Group on Financing Farmers of Color and a related Financial Health Investment Project that provides financial technical assistance to cohorts of Black, Indigenous, and other farmers of color.

Project Outputs and Programs

Soil Wealth Areas: Place-based Financing for Conservation, Rural Communities, and Regenerative Agriculture

This report summarizes the results of a major USDA-funded assessment of the feasibility of developing a new place-based financing district in four states across three regions with very different kinds of farming communities, agronomic conditions, and policy environments.

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Croatan Institute Wins Major Award for Soil Wealth

With support from a $700,000 USDA Conservation Innovation Grant, Croatan Institute will lead a two-year $1.5 million project to unlock new financing to expand regenerative agricultural systems and improve rural resilience across the United States.

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Aligned Initiatives

Soil Wealth

This report aims to quantify the current investment landscape surrounding regenerative agriculture and cultivate an understanding of how investors can allocate investments across asset classes to further these efforts.

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North Carolina Soil Wealth Areas

Soil Wealth Areas are new place-based financing districts that connect regenerative agriculture producers and value chain businesses with aligned capital and technical assistance, creating a magnet for regional soil health and community wealth investments.

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Investing in Regenerative Fiber Value Chains

This conversation highlights the gaps and opportunities to invest in regenerative fiber farms and infrastructure, from cotton and hemp to wool and leather, reshoring domestic textile production in the United States.

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Financial Health Investment Project

This project aims to increase the financial health of Black and other minority farmers and landowners through online financial coaching workshops supplemented by one-to-one coaching. This work will help build strong financial systems that lead to greater resilience and improved access to wealth-building opportunities for these farmers.

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