Here’s SILT’s latest news – CNN, Mark Bittman, new staff and more! Look for us at the CNN Town Hall meeting tonight, and sign up for your own SILT updates at

In November 2014, before the Sustainable Iowa Land Trust officially launched, we took a leap of faith standing in front of 800 billionaires, millionaires and regular folk at the Slow Money National Gathering in Kentucky. Out of 100 applicants, we were among 21 selected to tell our story.

On stage with Slow Money founder Woody Tasch and other Beetcoin winners in Kentucky.

We rocked the house! For the next two days food lovers, fund managers and impact investors handed me business cards and offered encouragement. In Slow Money’s first-ever “Beetcoin” campaign, we won a 3-year, $20,000 interest-free loan. SILT had hit a [really good] nerve.

We seldom think that what we do in Iowa makes a difference to anyone on the coasts, except during caucus season! Our Slow Money experience taught me otherwise. So last week, when Mark Bittman, former New York Times food writer and author of my favorite cookbook, came to Iowa with Ricardo Salvador of the Union of Concerned Scientists, I had to meet them. They were promoting UCS’s Plate of the Union campaign to get local food issues into the presidential political debate. Mark is the only national-level local food leader I know who understands how land prices impact our ability to grow healthy food. We asked them a favor: Tell more people about SILT, because we’re gaining ground fast in Iowa. They agreed!

The same week, CNN announced it was organizing a Town Hall meeting with the Democratic presidential candidates. SILT is supported and led by many active Republicans and Democrats. SILT leaders know that our common ground of permanently protecting land to grow healthy food could benefit from national exposure. So with our board’s blessing and a stroke of luck, I could get called upon at CNN’s Town Hall meeting 8 pm tonight to ask a candidate about land access for healthy food farmers. Fingers crossed!

Thanks especially to my compatriots in the Iowa Farmers Union. My service on the board has opened many doors for SILT. The Iowa Farmers Union is the voice of family-scale farming at the Iowa capitol and I’m proud to be a member.

Other news:

  • This week the SILT board votes on SILT’s first Executive Director! We had nearly a dozen applicants and we’re down to our last 2. Who’s it going to be? Like us on Facebook and connect on Twitter to get the latest news right away. Thank you to everyone who applied.
  • At the Practical Farmers of Iowa conference last week we had so many great conversations, and learned about a number of young farmers partnering with landowners to purchase the farm at a reduced price. We love that! If you’re in that situation, please contact us about permanently protecting the land while you’re at it. Your tax professional can fill you in on new tax benefits you may be able to tap as well.
  • Lastly, a clarification: Last month I excitedly announced the long-term federal tax benefits for “gifts of land for conservation” which is how the law states it…repeatedly. Russ Shay of the Land Trust Alliance, a group crucial to passage of the bill, says the IRS interprets “gifts of land” largely as “gifts of easements.” SILT attorneys are studying the bill to make sure we get it right. As always, if you’re considering a gift of land or an easement to SILT, it’s best to check with your legal and financial advisers.
The Best Things in Life are Free!
But attorneys, conference tabling, hotels, staff and car maintenance are not! Nearly every dollar in SILT’s young treasury is from our Slow Money loan and private donations. Please consider pitching in to help defray costs as we work together to reach landowners across Iowa who’ve been looking for a solution like SILT. Special thanks to the Theodosia H. Ferguson 2008 Living Trust for a very generous gift allowing us to rev up our work! It’s up to us now to make the most of it.
PS – Yahoo!! We own 40 acres in Corydon, 70 miles south of Des Moines, and are looking for a farmer. Interested? Write to with a letter describing your farming goals and experience.