Soil wealth areas: Place-based financing for conservation, rural communities, and regenerative agriculture

May 25, 2023 by Dan Streit

Agriculture presents both challenges and solutions in response to concerns about soil loss. Agricultural producers also face financial challenges associated with extreme weather events, leading to a rising tide of loan defaults and bankruptcies in rural farming communities.

Supporting regenerative farms and their associated businesses can significantly address the climate crisis, improve soil health, enhance biodiversity, improve water quality, and foster resilient rural landscapes.

Organic hotspots in the Southeast, upper Midwest, and west coast that were studied for this report demonstrate the potential socio-economic benefits of clusters of regenerative agricultural producers. These benefits include higher incomes and lower poverty and unemployment rates. The clusters of sustainable agriculture-based businesses highlight the potential for other states and rural communities to replicate these advantages and bridge rural-urban divides through healthier food systems and ecosystems.

But many farms and businesses need capital to implement regenerative agricultural practices, and traditional lenders often offer insufficient funding opportunities for their needs. Fortunately, a growing number of lenders and investors are developing more flexible financing solutions. Now the question becomes: how do we connect people with resources?

This report provides region-specific recommendations for implementing Soil Wealth Areas and suggests the establishment of a Soil Wealth Capital Collaborative to educate financial institutions and connect farmers and entrepreneurs with aligned capital providers. It assesses the feasibility of different types of place-based financing platforms in four states across three regions (North Carolina, northern California, Oregon, and Wisconsin) and explains the value of a Soil Wealth Community national platform for shared learnings and the expansion of place-based financing in other locations.