A 20-20 Report of Progress
Jan 15, 2021
The year 2020 may have been the most challenging in our lifetime, but with challenge comes clarity of purpose and refinement of our senses and logic, or at least we hope that is the case.
At the Regenerative Agriculture Alliance (RAA), we like to think of this year as 20-20, as it has given us a much sharper view of both what was not working before (but rather hiding behind pretense, narrative, and propaganda) and the future we want to build for agriculture, food security, ecological regeneration, economic returns for farmers and rural communities, food access and food with nutritional integrity. The year 2020 also provided the perfect stress test for the nation and the world’s food system infrastructure, it would be expected that the system was designed to ensure access to affordable and nutritious food while providing decent incomes, livelihoods, and working conditions for farmers and supply chain workers. The gaping flaws in the current food system exposed during this pandemic and the food insecurity that it generates are serious matters that need to be dealt with by communities all over.
As a new organization with limited resources and a staff of two — one of whom joined the RAA in July amid the pandemic — our path to the end of 2020 was quite rough. Fortunately, we had a solid theory of change, a plan, and a strategy to hit the ground running. These competitive advantages gave us an opportunity to work with as close to 20-20 clarity of vision as is possible in this convoluted and complicated world of agriculture. These are our accomplishments:
Marketing and Communications
- Contracted the services of a media organization (ManAlone Media) and web management (Patagonia Visuals) to deploy the RAA’s website (www.regenagalliance.org).
- Contracted the services of BetterWorld Partners to support communications, web content, and critical functions related to prospecting and fundraising.
- RAA’s Chief Operations Officer conducted 16 presentations reaching a total of 8,500 individuals and leaders directly with an extended estimated reach through social media and distribution of 55,000 people indirectly.
- Farmer outreach yielded networks across 12 Midwestern states.
- Conducted farmer outreach within the Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa bordering region and hosted multiple training for over 100 farmers, which resulted in the commitment of at least 30 farmers who have initiated their transition into the regenerative poultry system
We established many critical partnerships with organizations, meant to become the core operating ecosystem for the long-term RAA plan. They are:
- Shared Ground Cooperative
- Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs (MNCLA)
- The city of Albert Lea Economic Development Agency (EDA)
- Savanna Institute (SI)
- Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI)
- Organic Consumers Association (OCA)
- Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Services (MOSES)
- Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation, Pine Ridge, South Dakota
- Makoce Agriculture Services, Pine Ridge, South Dakota
- Comunidad Maya Pixan Ixim in Omaha, Nebraska
- GC Resolve in Omaha, Nebraska
- Regeneration Farms
- Rural Advantage
- Ho-Chunk Farms
- NDN Collective
These partnerships resulted in concrete projects that achieved the following milestones:
- Driftless Region Regeneration Project (bordering region of Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin)
- Supported producers and their organizing process to become a regional regenerative poultry collective.
- Secured the financing and established a partnership with Rural Advantage to complete the acquisition, restructuring, and re-launch of a poultry processing facility out of Stacyville to serve farmers in the region
- Developed the concept, business strategy, and support networks to plan, and deploy a Regenerative Agriculture Development Park out of the city of Albert Lea, Minnesota
- Developed and updated system- and farm-level production and management for regenerative poultry training curriculum
- Tree-Range Farmers Association
- Consolidated the regional producer pools, secured financial support, and established a strategy to build this national coordinating and governing body to oversee backbone infrastructure and services-centered programming for the deployment of a regenerative poultry system
- Tree-Range Farms
- Supported training, mentorship, and legal assistance for organizing this new system-level business management component of the national regenerative poultry system.
- Native American Food Sovereignty
- Projects are underway in the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and the Winnebago Nation’s Ho-Chunk Farms in Nebraska. The objective of these efforts is to bring the regenerative poultry system to native communities across the Midwest to support food sovereignty and to anchor the restoration of lands, water, forest, jobs, access to healthy foods, and resilience. To that end the RAA:
- Established a partnership with Thunder Valley Development Corporation out of Pine Ridge South Dakota as part of their Food Sovereignty programming
- Secured financing to purchase poultry processing infrastructure to launch Makoce Agriculture Services out of the Pine Ridge reservation which provided critical community infrastructure critical to food security during the pandemic and beyond
- Maya Regeneration Project
- The objective is to establish a regenerative agriculture land trust and community farm operation anchored on regenerative poultry production with an epicenter in Omaha, Nebraska, led by Pixan Ixim, a community of Native Guatemalans displaced from their ancestral lands by the Guatemalan war
Regional Project-Based Milestones
- Established core system-level RAA operating partnerships
- Coordinated support and organized six regenerative poultry producers in the Driftless Region along the borders of Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin
- Hosted multiple regenerative poultry workshops with attendance of over 500 farmers and professionals from Midwest states (Nebraska, South Dakota, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, and Kansas)
- Facilitated the introduction and approval of the Regenerative Agriculture Development park as part of the Minnesota bonding bill
- Coordinated the fundraising and facilitated the process that resulted in a partnership with Rural Advantage to purchase a poultry processing facility in Stacyville, Iowa, with a capacity for up to 1 million chickens of throughput per year and up to 200 small-scale poultry producers in the tri-state bordering region
System-Level Operational Milestones
- Continued to build a Midwest-wide core network of organizations and individuals under the Regeneration Midwest initiative
- Brought together system-level support systems critical for scaling up regenerative poultry (financial partners, markets, physical infrastructure)
- Supported the growth of Regeneration Farms LLC to anchor regional regenerative poultry contracting, branding, distribution, and marketing
- Initiated the building of a partner coalition to support the concept of a Regional Regenerative Agriculture Development Park anchored by regenerative poultry
- Secured resources and partnerships to organize the Tree-Range Farmers Cooperative, a BIPOC-led farmer-based organizing and governance structure
- During 2019 and 2020 the RAA coordinated the growth of assets associated with the regenerative poultry system from under $1 million to an estimated $8 million worth of property, plant, and equipment, which grounded the start-up phase for the launch of the first regional producer pool along the bordering region of MN, IA, and WI
Operating under the fiscal sponsorship of Regeneration International before receiving its own tax exemption, the RAA secured Start-up General Operating Grants for a total of $100,000 from the McKnight Foundation, $50,000 from the Regenerative Agriculture Foundation, $250,000 from anonymous donor out of Chicago, and grew the reach to direct donors. These financial resources allowed the RAA to expand internal capacity in preparation for 2021 growth plans. Beyond 2020 financial success, new financial commitments to the RAA’s work in 2021 reached $650,000 as of the January 2021 publication of this post.
In relation to the ecosystem-level aggregation of financial resources from farmers, businesses, and acquired infrastructure, the RAA’s financial impact in the bordering region of Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin resulted in over $8 million of property, plant, equipment, assets being committed to the success of the regional regenerative poultry system. These resources have resulted in the acquisition of land for two new farms and the joining of two more farmers with existing property holdings. Total land-based footprint with land dedicated to regenerative poultry as of the end of 2020 was 950 acres without accounting for over 5,000 acres of farmers in the process of joining the system and those indirectly involved in grain production. Projections are to double these impacts in 2021 to reach a point of stability for the regional producer pool.
Partnerships with Iroquois Valley Farms and Compeer Financial resulted in resources leveraged for the region for an estimated total of $1.5 million in 2020 and new investments planned for 2021.
Partnerships with economic development agencies, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, and the Minnesota Legislature resulted in over $350,000 of investments directly aimed at supporting the regional regenerative poultry system deployment.
Internal Human Resources
Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin, founder and president served as the primary program manager and administrator for both the organization and program work from 2019 through 2020.
Wilber de La Rosa joined the team in July 2020 and took on the regenerative poultry farms portfolio management providing organizing, farm planning and management assistance.
Specialized consultants were hired to fill temporary capacity surges. They include:
- ManAlone Media – Communications consultant
- Jim Kleinschmidt – National business development consultant and regional transitions
- BetterWorld Partners — Development consultant
- Accounting Services
- Website Management Services
It is the goal of the RAA to ensure diverse representation on its governance, program, and areas of impact.
- Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin
Board of Directors Diversity Matrix