Prairie Fruits farmers. business owners, and soil scientists, Dr. Wes Jarrell & Dr. Leslie Cooperband

Iroquois Valley started operations in the middle of the country working with small and middle size family farmers. These are our roots. The farmers we work with are forging a different path in agriculture focused on health for people and our planet. There are many leading the way, including a significant number of educators teaching by example. This is the beginning of a new four-part series telling their stories. 
Iroquois Valley's latest investment is a mortgage for Wes Jarrell and Leslie Cooperband, farmers and owners at Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery. This is our first investment in a goat dairy operation. This 46 acre expansion will help Prairie Fruits more than triple their land base. The land will be certified organic.

Leslie and Wes are both professors and PhD's in soil science who came to dairy farming in 2003. They had been teaching and doing research at University of Wisconsin-Madison when Wes was offered a department head position at University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign. They made the move and purchased seven acres of land that had been in grain production. They got to work immediately planting an orchard. Having grown up on a fruit farm in Western Oregon, Wes shared that "one of the reasons I wanted to start this farm was to be able to pick a ripe peach off of a tree." A year later, they had three Nubian goat does and one buck and began making cheese. They built the farm slowly by planting fruit trees, perennials, pasture and restoring prairie ecosystems, all while growing their herd. Their goats are certified Animal Welfare Approved.
Leslie and Wes both studied goats and their role in building soil in academia –– goats will eat all sorts of plants, from leafy pasture to woody shrubs, which makes them excellent partners in removing invasive plant species and even clearing brush in fire-prone regions. On the new land, Wes and Leslie will plant a mix of both silvopasture and more standard pasture that will encourage goats to decide where they want to graze. They mix woody and herbaceous species, which offers balance, consistency in milk production, and a great tasting cheese. They have partnered with The Agroforestry Center at the University of Missouri and Savanna Institute in their farm planning. `

The new acreage will not only help Prairie Fruits expand their operation, but also build a model farm. There are very few pasture-based goat milk dairies in the US, let alone the Midwest. On this land, they hope that they can demonstrate the potential for goats to thrive on diverse silvopasture, restore ecosystems, and be a vital partner in building soil –– and that farms based on this model can be financially viable through the production of dairy products. In the future, they hope to start a network of goat dairies based on this model, which will provide a path to growth. This network would follow common management practices, including Animal Welfare Approved, and work together to share resources and market collectively.
"I really wanted to make raw milk cheeses that capture the native microflora of what our goats are eating in terms of the pasture that’s connected to the prairie and our prairie’s soil. I wanted to begin to get people aware of the terroir of central Illinois."
Above: A Prairie Fruits goat on their pasture
Below: A selection of goat cheese and dairy products
Their love of goat cheese is at the heart of the farm. They produce French-style goat milk cheeses, including chèvre, as well as their own versions of camembert, crottin, and more. They produce both pasteurized and raw cheeses.

Leslie shares in an interview with Chicagoist, "I really wanted to make raw milk cheeses that capture the native microflora of what our goats are eating in terms of the pasture that’s connected to the prairie and our prairie’s soil. I really wanted to begin to get people aware of the terroir of central Illinois. I know people never think of those concepts together, because they think of industrial agriculture and corn and soybeans. They don’t think about the other things that grow here and also the incredible nature of these soils and their productivity and resiliency. I wanted our cheese to retain that character of the soils and I wanted it to be reflective of the seasonal variations of the milk, based on what the goats are eating. A raw milk cheese lends itself more to expressing those nuanced flavor differences as the seasons progress."

Learn more about their artisan cheeses here. They also make gelato, sorbetto, fruit leathers, run a pick-your-own fruit operation in the orchard, and host farm tours and meals, although the jury is out on whether that will be possible with this year, given COVID-19.
Investing in Iroquois Valley
Iroquois Valley's REIT Equity Shares and recently updated Soil Restoration Notes support our ability to invest in farmers like Wes and Leslie and grow the good food movement, acre by acre and farmer by farmer.

Learn more about investing by visiting our website or reach out to set up a conversation at
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As a corporate guideline,  we do not look for specific farmland to purchase or finance. We develop relationships with farmers, mostly young and organic, who want to grow their farm business. We move forward when we have a ready, willing and able farmer. 
Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT | Public Benefit Corporation  
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