Soil Wealth: Financing Food, Farms, Forestry, and Fiber

Soil Wealth encompasses the constellation of benefits that result when we build healthy soil and community wealth through regenerative and organic agriculture. Centered around financing farms, forestry, food, and fiber, this program provides resources, case studies, and on-the-ground engagement to demonstrate how a total portfolio, multi-asset class approach can be used to achieve soil wealth. 

The Soil Wealth program encourages investors and funders to:

  • Redirect finance from extractive models to regenerative ones;
  • Make finance more accessible to land stewards, agricultural producers, and value-web enterprises; and
  • Foster the magic in the middle by connecting both capital providers and capital seekers to accelerate the flow of capital in regenerative and organic food and agricultural systems.

Soil Wealth: Investing in Regenerative Agriculture across Asset Classes

In July 2019, Croatan Institute released a groundbreaking report, “Soil Wealth: Investing in Regenerative Agriculture across Asset Classes” that identified 127 US focused investable strategies, with combined assets under management of $321.1 billion, that explicitly integrate sustainable food and agriculture thematically or as criteria in their investment process, as well as 67 mechanisms, instruments and approaches that can be mobilized for financing regenerative agriculture across asset classes. 

In order to advance the potential that regenerative agriculture presents in mitigating climate change, improving soil health, and building community resilience, significant capital needs to be deployed on farms, as well as across value chains. This report quantifies the current investment landscape surrounding regenerative agriculture and cultivates an understanding of how investors can allocate investments across asset classes to further these efforts.

Based on our analyses of cash and cash equivalents, fixed income, real assets, public equity, private equity, and venture capital markets, this report concludes with a series of recommendations for investors working within each asset class and for stakeholders such as foundations, policymakers, asset owners and asset managers, and regenerative agriculture practitioners.

In 2020, Croatan Institute received USDA NRCS funding to further explore one of the place-based mechanisms identified in this report, Regenerative Organic Agriculture Districts that we now call “Soil Wealth Areas.” See below for more information about this work. 

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: North Carolina in the South, Northern California and Oregon on the West Coast, and Wisconsin in the upper Midwest.

Building upon the success of other agricultural districts, such as conservation districts and farmland protection districts, Soil Wealth Areas are special purpose soil wealth improvement districts that can become magnets for investment in regenerative agriculture, enhanced conservation on working farms and forests, and resilient rural economies. 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.

The report makes specific recommendations for implementing Soil Wealth Areas in each of the regions analyzed and creating a wider Soil Wealth Community for practitioners to share learnings about their experiences with place-based financing.

Investing in Regenerative Fiber Value Chains

Croatan Institute President and Senior Fellow Joshua Humphreys is joined by Institute partners, Molly Hemstreet of The Industrial Commons and Opportunity Threads, Eric Henry of TS Designs, Sarah Kelley of Common Threads Consulting, and Latashia Redhouse of Intertribal Agriculture Council for a conversation on growing needs and opportunities associated with investing in regenerative farm-to-fabric value chains.

Highlighted Projects and Resources

Credit Worth and Soil Wealth

This paper documents leading environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks and shortcomings at Farm Credit and recommends changes to help the System more fully meet its basic public purpose: to help farmers and rural communities access affordable, reliable capital.

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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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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.

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Agricultural Lender Education: Closing the Financial Information Gap in Conservation Agriculture

This project involves providing the agricultural finance community with information about the benefits of conservation and regenerative agriculture practices.

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Regenerative Agriculture Infrastructure Finance

This project will identify finance opportunities and pathways that work to build processing, distribution, and market infrastructure for regenerative farms.

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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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Healthy Food Access Mapping (Healthy FAM)

This project has produced a healthy food access mapping project in the five-county region of North Carolina.

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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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Impact Investing in Sustainable Food and Agriculture across Asset Classes

This paper provides a framework for impact investors as they consider how to invest in issues related to food and agriculture across asset classes.

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Organic Agriculture Revitalization Strategy

Re-envisioning organic food and agriculture as an inclusive economic development strategy for revitalizing rural places.

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Partners & Funders

Learn how you can support the Soil Wealth Program

Email us to learn more about sponsorship opportunities.