James Ranch - Cochise County, AZ

How ranching can restore watersheds and native grassland ecosystems
Iroquois Valley made its first investment in the Southwest this summer. Years ago, we met Cindy Tolle at the Quivira Coalition conference. She is a rancher who has built a business providing Audubon conservation ranching certified meat to institutional markets, including hospitals and universities, and direct to consumers. Cindy owns a USDA organic certified meat processing plant in South Dakota that provides important infrastructure for ranches in the region. Her business is Evergreen Ranching & Livestock. We were inspired by her bold vision to integrate ranching and conservation across a variety of ecosystems, linking different ranches together so that cattle move with the seasons and are aggregated under one brand.

Cindy holds graduate degrees in microbiology and chemistry; she has been involved in conservation work, particularly related to soils and grassland habitats, throughout her entire career. At her family ranch, she and her sons raise bison and Criollo cattle, a heritage breed that has been in North America since the 1400s when it was brought over with the Spanish. Criollos give birth between Jan-March when the winter grasses and forbs start to grow. They will graze during this time and onward into the summer monsoon flush (July-Sept in foothills where the property is located). After six months, when the cattle are ready to wean, the young 6-month old Criollos will be sent north as the monsoon season ends. Breeding stock will remain on the property year-round. The calves will move from Arizona to properties Cindy operates in Missouri, Kansas, and South Dakota for the next 18 months as they reach harvest. This migration involves collaboration with multiple partners and uses land in a way that honors its carrying capacity and climate. Cattle are instrumental to restoration work at the Arizona property and will intensively graze paddocks to encourage the grassland to rebound.
Cindy met Steven and Angie Terrell, who will be the ranchers at James Ranch, through her connections in Arizona. Steven and Angie are a young couple raising their three daughters just a few miles away from the James Ranch. Steven and Angie both studied agriculture and animal science in college. Steven has been a cowboy his whole life, and held his first grazing lease in his late teens on a property near the James Ranch. Angie was an Arizona state officer for the Future Farmers of America where she had the opportunity to travel teaching and promoting agriculture. The Terrells love the ranching way of life, saying "we are so blessed that we get to teach our kids its importance."

More recently, Steven and Angie had been custom grazing on ranches in Cochise County. They found a long-term partner in Cindy, who can provide a secure market and resources as they establish their own operation. This investment enables Steven and Angie to get their start and for Cindy to expand her business. The property will be certified organic.
Sacaton flats pictured in front of the Swisshelm mountains
The ranch needs restoration to encourage the native grassland to rebound. When we visited the ranch in June, it was before the summer monsoon season had begun – as Cindy said, "it was the best time to visit because it was the worst the ranch would look." Many of the grasses were dormant and there was no water in the seasonal draws, or waterways. While there, we learned about plants that indicated a high water table and other keystone species of the Sonoran desert. For example, we learned to identify sacaton, a native bunchgrass that stores water close to the soil surface. The property has numerous sacaton flats, in addition to other grasses and plants including cholla, ocotillo, mesquite, and desert willow and ample wildlife. The property includes grazing rights in the Swisshelm mountains, which are where most of the water for the property originates. Much of the restoration work will focus on capturing seasonal rainfall as it comes down the mountain into the valley.

Steven reports that it has been an excellent monsoon season this summer. They have already reached close to 14 inches of rain total so far, which is the annual average for the county. The monsoon season should continue into early fall. The water holding tanks on the property are full of water, and much of the vegetation that looked so dry during our visit is green and growing again.
Case study: El Coronado Ranch
Valer Clark is a rancher, conservationist, watershed restoration practitioner, and artist that we had the pleasure of meeting during our time in Arizona. She works with Cuenca Los Ojos (CLO) and Borderlands Restoration Network to protect biodiversity throughout the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts through habitat and watershed restoration projects. Learn more about CLO's work restoring watersheds to their pre-European settlement functionality here.

Valer owns El Coronado Ranch, also in Cochise County, and has practiced large-scale ecosystem restoration there. The land supports wildlife, including mountain lions, bears, native turkeys, deer, javelinas, coatis, numerous species of hummingbirds and native bees, turkey vultures, raptors, quail, pheasant, native frogs, native fish, and much more.

El Coronado is a working ranch as well as a research and education site. Cindy worked with Valer for several years testing soil and studying her watershed restoration impacts. Valer worked to harvest water by carefully observing the way water flows off the mountains and through her property. She and her team built trincheras and gabions, which are similar to dams in that they are intended to slow down the flow of water. They are made of rock and sometimes wiring to cage a collection of rocks. Unlike dams, they have a more open structure that allows water to pass through slowly. As the water passes through, it is filtered and sediment collects as rich topsoil. The filtered water can then thoroughly absorb into the soil.

These water harvesting methods are a model for ranching in the Southwest as it faces increasing water scarcity. Cindy, Steven, and Angie plan to use these techniques on the James Ranch.
Exposed rockbed shows what the ranch used to look like before restoration. The flood path is where the rock is darkened. This is what Turkey Creek looked like before top soil accumulated and grasses came back. Valer left this one area as it was to demonstrate the extent of the restoration work.
Valer pointing to a trinchera. Trincheras slow down water so it can effectively percolate and absorb in the soil. This allows them to build topsoil by collecting sediment flowing off the mountains during rain events and filter water that flows into aquifers. Top soil layered on mineral-rich shale makes for nutrient-rich, fertile soils that support the existing seedbed.
Lush grassland and riparian ecosystem, even after only 2 inches of rain. Photo taken before the 2021 summer monsoon season.
Water still flowing in Turkey Creek. After an extended drought, it was incredible to see water flowing knowing what a dry season it had been.
Water in the West
Water in the west is about as fraught as an issue can be. Climate change and severe drought have shrunk the Colorado River, sparking conversations about long-term water availability and usage in the region. As the entire West grapples with these issues, it is critical that we support native ecosystems that are adapted to the climate and are resilient in lean years.

Water issues are not isolated to the West – the Midwest has seen drought conditions, particularly in Minnesota where some rivers have run dry. We believe it is a critical time to support land stewards across the country. It's also imperative that we take a stand against exploitive industries that would harm our natural resources. There are two issues we would like to call attention to that are affecting regions we are invested in:

  • Stop Line 3: A movement led by Indigenous water protectors in Minnesota to protect natural resources from a proposed pipeline expansion. This issue touches First Nations sovereignty, the Mississippi watershed, and much more. Learn more about how to support water protectors and stop Line 3 here.

  • Stop the Nicor pipeline: Iroquois Valley is in partnership with Black Oaks Center, a collective of Black farmers in Kankakee, Illinois, on a beginning farmer & rancher grant, among other projects. They are standing against a proposed pipeline and working to realize a long-term sustainability plan that centers food as a regenerative economic model and protects the endangered black oak savanna ecosystem. The founders of Black Oaks Center recently spoke to Chicago public radio about the pipeline and their resistance. Listen here.
Annual Shareholder Meeting moved online
After careful consideration, we have decided to move our annual shareholder meeting online. We were looking forward to welcoming folks at Rock Creek, but the accelerating spread of the delta variant changed our plans. We hope that our move online will allow for greater participation from our shareholders. More information will be shared directly with shareholders regarding board elections and webinar information.
Legal Disclaimer
The information contained in this newsletter is not an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy any security, insurance product, or service. Any product or service discussed in this newsletter is intended for and is only appropriate for accredited and institutional investors and other qualified purchasers as determined by current SEC regulations and orders. The information available in this newsletter is for informational purposes only.

Securities involve risk, and investment may result in a partial or total loss. Some of the statements herein may constitute forward-looking statements under federal securities laws. Such forward-looking statements are subject to various risks and uncertainties, including those described in offering circulars prepared for the purpose of offering and selling securities by Iroquois Valley. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Any historical returns, expected returns, or probability projections may not reflect actual future performance.

Iroquois Valley and its affiliates are not liable for any investment decisions by its readers or subscribers. It is strongly recommended that any purchase or sale decision be discussed with a financial advisor, tax advisor, broker-dealer, or a member of any financial regulatory body. The information contained herein has been provided as an information service only. The accuracy or completeness of the information is not warranted and is only as reliable as the sources from which it was obtained.

In particular, Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT, PBC is offering its common stock for sale pursuant to Tier 2 of Regulation A+, and as such intends to be exempted from state qualification pursuant to federal law. Offerings are only made through our Offering Circular, available here. No offer to sell securities or solicitation of an offer to buy securities is being made herein or in any state where such offer or sale is not permitted under the blue sky or state securities laws thereof. No offer to sell securities or solicitation of an offer to buy securities is being made in the following states: AL, AR, and OK.
As a corporate guideline,  we do not look for specific farmland to purchase or finance. We develop relationships with farmers who want to grow their businesses. We move forward when we have a ready, willing and able farmer. 
Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT | Public Benefit Corporation  
 Certified  B Corporation | Est. 2007