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View Our 2016 Annual Report

Who We Are

The Sustainable Iowa Land Trust (SILT) launched in early 2015 to help save and protect the best of the family farm – small, diverse, clean farms that feed Iowans. We are dedicated to permanently protecting land to grow healthy food for generations to come.

Our model takes land speculation and mortgage interest out of the equation for future healthy food farmers through sole ownership of farmland and the stringent enforcement of sustainable ag conservation easements. That means affordable farmland near markets for our food farmers. Loving local food means protecting local farmland.

We are also seeking partnerships among investors, developers and real estate companies to build neighborhoods that will incorporate SILT-owned nature-friendly farms into them, providing a win-win for all involved and permanently protecting more land more quickly during this massive land transfer. In such “agri-hoods” around the country, homes sell for faster, for higher prices on smaller lots and enjoy bucolic backyards of beautiful farms. It is the only land trust in the Midwest dedicated to such an ambitious and vital mission.

In three years we have protected 5 farms totaling more than 400 acres. If you’re interested in protecting your land, or if you’re a new farmer looking for an affordable opportunity, contact us today. 

SILT Executive Director

SILT Who We Are Executive Director Suzan Erem

Suzan Erem

suzan@silt.org

Suzan Erem is the Executive Director and co-founder of the Sustainable Iowa Land Trust, launched in January 2015 to permanently protect land to grow healthy food. Suzan graduated from the University of Iowa in the mid-1980s with degrees in Journalism and English, but soon learned she had the ability to bring people together around common goals. She’s been doing that ever since.

Job opportunities dragged her out of Iowa but she returned in 2010 with her husband to witness a dramatically different landscape. At the same time local food was more popular than ever, young people could not afford the land to grow that food on. She put her organizing skills to work, and two years later leaders in agriculture, development and planning from around the state joined together to create SILT.

SILT Board of Directors

SILT Who We Are Board of Directors Stuart Valentine

Stuart Valentine

President

Fairfield

Stuart Valentine, MBA, explores the boundaries of philanthropy and entrepreneurship in his role as Director of the Sustainable Living Coalition (SLC), a non-profit dedicated to sustainability education, local food production and enterprise design. He is also a financial advisor with 16 years in the social, responsible and impact investment sectors. The Centerpoint mission includes “manifesting the experience of true wealth for clients by supporting the integration of their deep life purpose with their investment portfolio.” (www.centerpointinvesting.com) Stuart also plays an adjunct faculty role at Maharishi University of Management in the area of Socially Responsible Investing, Sustainable Community Design and Transformational Entrepreneurship.

SILT Who We Are Board of Directors Vice President Denise OBrien

Denise O’Brien

Vice President

Atlantic

Denise is a farmer and has been involved in her community as well as in the agricultural sector for nearly 40 years. She is the founder of Women Food and Agriculture Network and is known for her organizing and policy work on the local, national and international level. Denise is a 2001-2003 Food and Society Fellow, a W.K. Kellogg funded program. In 2012 O’Brien completed a one-year assignment with the United States Department of Agriculture as an Agriculture Advisor in Afghanistan. She currently serves on the board of the Pesticide Action Network. Denise was recently recognized by Country Woman Magazine as one of 45 Amazing Women in 2015.

SILT Who We Are Board of Directors Kathy Dice

Kathy Dice

Treasurer

Wapello

Kathy Dice of Wapello, Iowa, is a tree farmer and business owner. Kathy and her husband Tom Wahl own Red Fern Farm, and for 25 years have specialized in perennial fruit and nut production. Kathy and Tom promote sustainable agriculture and believe that trees are an integral part of the ecosystem.

Kathy graduated from ISU with honors and has worked for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Louisa County Conservation Board.

She is a Louisa county soil commissioner and the winner of the 2015 Practical Farmers of Iowa Sustainable Agriculture Achievement Award.

Kathy was elected as SILT’s first board treasurer in January, 2015, and in that capacity serves on the board’s executive committee.

SILT Who We Are Board of Directors Cindy Reed

Cindy Reed

Secretary

Solon

Cindy Reed, RN, PhD has worked in healthcare for over 35 years in a variety of clinical and administrative positions. She currently is the Executive Director of the Iowa Lions Eye Bank, a non-profit University of Iowa based organization that recovers donated eye tissue and prepares it for transplant. Through personal experience, Cindy has become increasingly aware of the impact of healthy food versus the average American diet, and is alarmed that 90% of the food available for her family comes from someplace outside of Iowa.

Cindy and her husband Steve have 5 grown children and one grandchild on the way. They live in Solon with their dog Max and Cat Bastet, and are in the process of converting their two acres of turf grass into an edible forest.

SILT Who We Are Board of Directors Paul Durrenburger

Paul Durrenberger

West Branch

Award-winning anthropologist who has published widely on food production, agriculture and rural economies.

SILT Who We Are Board of Directors Julie Falcon

Julie Falcon

Independence

Julie Falcon lives near Independence with her husband Tom Halverson. They raised two sons on their small acreage keeping everyone busy growing Christmas trees. As a hobby, Julie raises chickens and gardens. Her occupation had been working with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in ten Iowa counties holding the positions of Soil Conservation Technician, Soil Conservationist, and District Conservationist. She retired from NRCS after 37 years and is now a consultant and an associate of ManPlan, a technical service provider to landowners on resource concerns.

SILT Who We Are Board of Directors Lora Fraracci

Lora Fraracci

Des Moines

SILT Who We Are Board of Directors Jeff Jensen

Jeff Jensen

Fenton

Jeff is from the Ft. Dodge area. He has a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies and has worked in the field of sustainable agriculture for the past 10 years. Jeff has also worked extensively with farmers and landowners on environmental and policy issues. Jeff is a little nutty, being active with the Iowa Nut Growers Association, Minnesota Hazelnut Foundation, and Upper Midwest Hazelnut Development Initiative (UMHDI). He grows hazelnuts from the family farm in Northern Kossuth County and works for Trees Forever.

SILT Who We Are Board of Directors Anne Johnson

Anne Johnson

Des Moines

Anne Johnson is a 2013 graduate of Drake Law school who is passionate about the struggles of immigrants and victims of domestic violence. She was raised rural Iowa in a family that grew much of their food in garden plots on the edge of town. Although she lives in the middle of Des Moines, Anne grows dozens of varietals of organic heirloom tomatoes to share with her friends and neighbors.

Anne attended Wartburg College in Waverly, IA, where she met her husband Shawn, and is the mother of three hungry teenagers who she tries to feed healthfully. She loves camping at the Iowa State Fair, is an eternal student of drawing and woodworking, and can’t wait for that call to be on Jeopardy!

SILT Who We Are Board of Directors Kayla Koether

Kayla Koether

Decorah

Kayla Koether is a Food Systems Specialist specializing in beginning farmer education and outreach for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach in five counties in northeast Iowa, with a partial appointment with the Extension Local Foods Team.

An aspiring farmer herself, Kayla grew up near McGregor on an intensive rotational grazing farm, where her family’s strong land and community ethic shaped her passions for local, healthy food and regenerative farming systems. Those passions led her to study International Agriculture and Rural Development at Grinnell College and to travel to India and Mongolia and learn about agriculture and pastoralism abroad.

Kayla intentionally returned to NE Iowa with the recognition that she can most effectively support sustainable agriculture and vibrant rural livelihoods in the cultures and communities that she knows best. She has served as an AmeriCorps member with the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative where she taught public school children about agriculture and nutrition. She also worked to promote energy efficiency and local, renewable energy ownership to Iowa farmers with the Winneshiek Energy District.

When she’s not thinking about food, farming, and revitalizing rural Iowa, she’s trying to hatch her own grazing plans with her partner, Landon Corlett, or doing yoga, playing music, horseback riding, or reading.

SILT Who We Are Board of Directors Lyle Luzum

Lyle Luzum

Decorah

A graduate of Luther College and former high school teacher, farmer, and then college IT Director, Lyle retired in 2010 and took up small scale organic farming and raising lamb for local markets. Lyle was the fourth generation to live on his family’s heritage farm in NE Iowa, where he and his wife Susan lived for 39 years. Their daughter Stephanie also grew up on the farm.

While looking at future options for protecting the family heritage, the Luzums realized that a diversified, organic farm with a long history of soil conservation (starting in 1937) would always be at risk from industrial agriculture and the lure of money. Thus, in 2017 they, with the enthusiastic support of their daughter, donated their family farm to SILT to protect it for future sustainable food production in a way that is not possible if left only to family members. Lyle has served on the South Winneshiek Community School Board, the Calmar Lutheran Church Council, Oneota Community Food Co-op Board, the Winneshiek County Soil & Water Conservation Commission, and the Winneshiek Energy District Board prior to joining the SILT Board.

SILT Who We Are Board of Directors Gina McAndrews

Gina McAndrews

Ames

Gina McAndrews grew up an active member of her family’s diversified farm in eastern Iowa, acquiring an interest in ecology and food production systems. After Animal Science degree at Iowa State University, she worked in environmental and agriculture policy for the U.S. Senate in Washington DC, worked in various aspects of agriculture in several other countries and then returned to ISU for a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and to teach courses in Ecology and Agronomy. She is currently a Realtor with Century 21 Signature Real Estate in Ames, and she serves as the vice president of Wheatsfield Cooperative and on the boards of Worldly Goods and the Central Iowa Board of Realtors.

SILT Who We Are Board of Directors George Oamek

George Oamek

Honey Creek

George Oamek and his wife Sharon operate Honey Creek Creamery, a goat dairy and artisan cheese-making operation, at their Century Farm in Honey Creek. In addition, George is an engineering consultant focusing upon water resources and also operates a cow-calf operation. He earned a Ph.D. in Agricultural Economics from Iowa State University, leading to a wonderful professional career but yielding few insights about the economics of local food systems and value-added food production. He has dedicated the last 10 years to learning the local food business and enjoying the great company of the people involved in it.

SILT Who We Are Board of Directors David Swenson

David Swenson

Ames

Dave is an associate scientist in the Department of Economics, Iowa State University and a lecturer at the School of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Iowa.

He is a community economics research and education specialist. His work centers on regional and statewide economic analysis, technical assistance, and projects that support the College of Agriculture and Life Science’s efforts in community development and in providing community economics education services to the public. His research and service categories include regional industrial studies and evaluations, economic development research and technical assistance, input-output (economic impact) studies, benefit-cost analysis, fiscal impact research, public finance and tax policy analysis, community change and worker mobility dynamics, and public project evaluation. In recent years he has done a significant amount of work on both biofuels and local foods economic impacts.

David has worked at ISU since 1989. Before that he worked at the University of Iowa from 1981 to 1989. He is a South Dakota native, a veteran of the U.S. Army, and known to run very long distances for no good reason.

SILT Advisers

Laura Belin

Windsor Heights

SILT Who We Are Advisers Joe Bolkcom

Joe Bolkcom

Iowa City

Sen. Joe Bolkcom serves on the SILT Advisory Council.

Sen. Bolkcom is a Democrat from the Iowa City area. He currently serves as Senate Majority Whip and chair of the Ways & Means Committee, chairman of Progressive States Network and member of FEMA’s national advisory council, environmentalist and former county supervisor.

Dorrance Brezina

Des Moines

SILT Who We Are Advisers Penny Brown Huber

Penny Brown Huber

Ames

Penny Brown Huber of Ames serves on SILT’s Advisory Council.

Penny Brown Huber is the Executive Director of Prairie Rivers of Iowa RC&D and CEO of Iowa Choice Harvest. She has worked in not-profits most of her professional career from project development, to fundraising, to crafting and building several not-for-profits. She has extensive experience in strategic planning and business planning. In 2008, Penny was named one of 80 women leaders in the country by The Whitehouse Project.

Larry Cleverley

Mingo

Kamyar Enshayan

Cedar Falls

SILT Who We Are Advisers Cornelia Flora

Cornelia Flora

Ames

Cornelia Flora of Ames serves on the Advisory Council of SILT.

Cornelia Butler Flora, PhD Cornell University, is the Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Agriculture and Life Sciences, Iowa State University and Research Scientist, Kansas State University. A Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and past president of the Rural Sociological Society, the Community Development Society, and the Society for Food, Agriculture and Human Values, she has taught, done research, and worked with action programs across the US, Latin America, and parts of Africa and Asia. She recently completed a Fulbright award teaching with Jan Flora at the University of Cordoba in Spain.

SILT Who We Are Advisers Jan Flora

Jan Flora

Ames

Jan Flora is Professor Emeritus at Iowa State and Research Professor of Sociology at Kansas State University. He was Program Advisor for Agriculture and Rural Development for the Ford Foundation for Spanish-speaking South America. He held the Endowed Chair in Agricultural Systems at the University of Minnesota. His research analyzes the relationship of community capitals to community and sustainable development. He is a grassroots activist in A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy (AMOS), focusing on immigration reform and affordable housing in Ames. He serves on the board of the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas. He grew up on a farm in Kansas.

SILT Who We Are Advisers Kurt Friese

Kurt Friese

Iowa City

Kurt Friese of Iowa City serves on the SILT Advisory Council.

Owner and Chef, Devotay Restaurant is a community leader in local, sustainable cuisine, featuring flavors of the Mediterranean made with ingredients from 35+ “Devotay Local Farm Partners.” He is also Owner, Publisher, Editor-in-Chief, River Valley Press, LLC, which publishes Edible Iowa River Valley magazine.

SILT Who We Are Advisers Jason Grimm

Jason Grimm

Williamsburg

Jason Grimm of Williamsburg serves on SILT’s Advisory Council.

Mr. Grimm is a food planner for Iowa Valley RC&D and a farmer at Grimm Family Farm.

Bob Hartwig

Des Moines

SILT Adviser Bob Hartwig is Legal Counsel with the Iowa Bankers Association. Bob has been with the IBA since graduating from the Drake Law School in 1997. His responsibilities include lobbying on behalf of the IBA and its members, providing on-site and educational seminars for IBA member banks, general in-house legal duties and litigation support. He has an undergraduate degree in Agricultural Business from Iowa State University. From 1989 until 1994, he was a residential real estate lender at First Federal Savings Bank of the Midwest in Storm Lake, Iowa. Bob is a member of the Business Law Section of the American Bar Association and the Agricultural, Commercial, and Real Estate Sections of the Iowa State Bar Association.

SILT Who We Are Advisers John Ikerd

John Ikerd

Fairfield

John Ikerd of Fairfield serves on SILT’s Advisory Council.

Dr. Ikerd is Professor Emeritus in Agricultural and Applied Economics, University of Missouri, and the author of many books including “Crisis and Opportunity: Sustainability in American Agriculture” and “Sustainable Capitalism.”

SILT Who We Are Advisers Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson

Decorah

Paul Johnson of Decorah serves on SILT’s Advisory Council.

Mr. Johnson is the former director of Natural Resource Conservation Service under President Bill Clinton, three-term state senator, farmer and former director of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources

SILT Who We Are Advisers Bobby Kaufmann

Bobby Kaufmann

Wilton

Bobby Kaufmann of Wilton serves on SILT’s Advisory Council.

State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann is a crop and livestock farmer who also owns and operates a steel hauling, construction and demolition business in Cedar County. Bobby is a member of the Farm Bureau, National Rifle Association, Cedar County Historical Society, Cedar County Soldiers Monument Association, and a wide variety of service and volunteer organizations.

SILT Who We Are Advisers Jeff Kaufmann

Jeff Kaufmann

Wilton

Jeff Kaufmann serves on SILT’s Advisory Council.

Jeff A. Kaufmann was the Iowa State Representative from the 79th District. He served in the Iowa House of Representatives since 2004[1] and retired in 2013. He was the assistant minority leader and Speaker Pro Tem. Among other leadership roles, he currently serves as a Cedar County Supervisor.

SILT Who We Are Advisers Frederick Kirschenmann

Fred Kirschenmann

Ames

Fred Kirschenmann of Ames serves on SILT’s Advisory Council.

Fred is a Distinguished Fellow at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University and as the President of the Board at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Picantico Hills, NY. He also provides management oversight for his 1,800 acre organic farm in South Central North Dakota.

SILT Who We Are Advisers Ervin Klaas

Erv Klaas

Ames

Erv Klaas of Ames serves on SILT’s Advisory Council.

Erwin Klaas is professor emeritus of animal ecology, Iowa State University, a former leader of the Iowa Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit and currently serves as an assistant commissioner for the Story County Soil and Water Conservation District.

SILT Who We Are Advisers Lucie Laurian

Lucie Laurian

Iowa City

Lucie Laurian of Iowa City serves on SILT’s Advisory Council.

Lucie is an Associate Professor with a Ph.D. in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2001. Her areas of interest include: The interactions between urban populations and their environments, the implementation of local environmental plans, public participation and the linkages between planning and public health.

SILT Who We Are Advisers Jean Lloyd Jones

Jean Lloyd-Jones

Iowa City

Jean Lloyd-Jones of Iowa City serves on SILT’s Advisory Council.

Jean served as Iowa State Representative from 1979-1986 and Iowa Senator from 1987-1994 representing the Iowa City area. She is a founding member of the Johnson County Heritage Trust (Now Bur Oak Trust) and of 50/50 in 2020.

SILT Who We Are Advisers Mary Ellen Miller

Mary Ellen Miller

Corydon

In retirement, Mary Ellen divides her time between her home in Mason City, farm in Wayne County and summer cabin in Northern Minnesota. After a 30-year career in human epidemiology at the U of Iowa, she worked as a non-profit organizational development facilitator and long-range planning and fundraising consultant. She has served on the boards of North Iowa Area Community College, League of Women Voters of Iowa, Iowa Federation of Republican Women, 1,000 Friends of Iowa, her Unitarian Universalist fellowship and has a long history of civic engagement. She was appointed to the Iowa State Board of Education in 2014.

Mary Ellen grew up on a small farm in Johnson County; she purchased her first farm in the 70s where she raised and marketed free-range, organic Angus beef. Her interest in land use policy is rooted in her childhood growing up in the Amish community near Kalona, Iowa. Her Amish relatives taught her by example that we are temporary stewards of the land and must work to protect it for the benefit of future generations. Aldo Leopold’s “A Sand County Almanac” serves as her land use bible. Leopold was a person who spoke as did my Amish ancestors: “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

SILT Who We Are Advisers David Osterberg

David Osterberg

Mt Vernon

David Osterberg of Mt. Vernon serves on SILT’s Advisory Council.

David is a lifelong environmental activist, founder Iowa Policy Project. Clinical Professor in the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health at the University of Iowa and former Iowa State Representative 1983-1994.

SILT Who We Are Advisers Joe Pietruszynski

Joe Pietruszynski

Des Moines

Joe Pietruszynski serves on SILT’s Advisory Council.

Joe is vice president of land development at Hubbell Homes, Iowa’s largest real estate developer. Currently, Joe is overseeing the development and management of more than thirty commercial, industrial, and residential developments, including plans for Iowa’s first development incorporating an organic farm.

Harn Soper

Emmetsburg

SILT Who We Are Advisers Mary Swander

Mary Swander

Ames

Mary Swander of Ames serves on SILT’s Advisory Council.

Mary is Poet Laureate of Iowa, a local food activist and playwright currently touring Iowa with “Map of My Kingdom” about the challenges of intergenerational farm transfer.

SILT Who We Are Advisers Francis Thicke

Francis Thicke

Fairfield

Francis Thicke of Fairfield serves on SILT’s Advisory Council.

Francis is owner of Radiance Dairy, producing local organic milk products for more than 30 years, a former candidate for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture and member National Organic Standards Board. He holds a PhD in soil science.

Michele Traver

Cedar Rapids

Tom Wahl

Wapello

Paul Willis

Thornton