Slow Money

July 2013: Chapter Updates

California chapters have abundant news after our national gathering.

Slow Money San Luis Obispo

Reported by Jeff Wade.

Funded six entrepreneurs over the past 12 months for an approximate investment total of $200,000.

Tom Neuhaus, Lani Bidwell and Eve Neuhaus of Mama Ganache, which sources fair trade chocolate for its artisan, organic truffles and bars.

With strawberries and wine grapes representing almost half of the total San Luis Obispo County crop revenues in 2012—over $400 million out of $861 million—there is certainly a need to assist and support the small farmer who struggles to access expensive land and bring product to market with some profit, even with 22 farmers markets and 15 CSA offerings in the SLO county. Slow Money SLO has brought together investors and funded six entrepreneurs over the past 12 months to the tune of approximately $200,000. Read on to learn more about our first recipient, SLO Natural Foods.

 Virginia Marum of Vert Foods soon will provide prepared foods daily at  SLO Natural Foods.

After almost a year of hard work by the staff and board as well as amazing volunteer work, the 30-year-young SLO Natural Foods has completed a major remodel of a vacant building and has moved into this larger, brighter space around the corner from the old store. It can now offer many more items desired by the community and compete with the larger stores. The grand opening celebration was held July 13 with food samples, prizes and music. It was an especially great opportunity for Slow Money SLO since it also has a mission to support local food suppliers. See the new store in this SLO Natural Foods video.

 Michael and Amanda Gerard of Benefit Foods, which offers a vegan, organic, gluten-free bar in biodegradable packaging.


 Alexis de Falla and Zoe Sanchez operate SLO Natural Foods, where businesses can source ingredients and sell their product through the store.

It was exciting to see three other Slow Money SLO entrepreneurs participating in the grand opening. These businesses are sourcing ingredients from SLO Natural Foods or selling product through the store, or in some cases, both!

  • Benefit Foods has created an incredible vegan, organic, gluten-free bar that is wrapped in biodegradable packaging. It is working to create a lunch box program to help address childhood hunger and promote healthy food in SLO County.
  • Mama Ganache sources fair trade chocolate for its artisan, organic truffles and bars. When Tom Neuhaus isn’t instructing chocolate production at Cal Poly, running the fair trade club or producing chocolate, he operates the NGO he founded called Project Hope and Fairness, to help West African cocoa farmers become more economically sustainable.
  • Vert Foods provided samples of its tasty, nutritionally dense prepared foods, which are available for weekly delivery and soon on a daily basis at SLO Natural Foods.

We are online at, or send email if you would like to chat about our efforts or discuss local leader topics. We have formed a steering team to help guide the progress and growth of our group over the next 12 to 18 months. Local partnerships, education and ongoing support for Slow Money recipients are among the major goals for the coming year.

Slow Money Northern California

Reported by Arno Hesse.

Invested over $300,000 in enterprises that presented at Farm Fests during the last year.

Slow Money Northern California has been taking the Entrepreneur Showcase to the farm. The future of the food system in the San Francisco Bay Area will be shaped by passionate food and farming entrepreneurs, as well as by the investors and activists who back them. The local Slow Money group supports and features entrepreneurs at Farm Fests and offers skill-building workshops.

Against the impressive backdrop of the Sunol Water Temple, Slow Money Northern California convened its third Farm Fest on June 22, taking the community conversation closer to the source of sustainable food. Hosted by Sunol AgPark in the East Bay, the event allowed participants to network and discuss their future collaborations.


Farmer Fred Hempel (left) explains the workings of his Baia Nicchia Farm. He focuses on nutritious specialties like rare heirloom tomatoes and Ethiopian kale. Through the farm tours, Slow Money visitors learn more about the economic realities of the small farm.


Sunol AgPark serves as an incubator for several young farms that work with the surrounding communities. Located on publicly owned land, it is managed by the nonprofit SAGE (Sustainable Agriculture Education), led by longtime food systems leader Sibella Kraus (left).


No boring presentation in a closed conference room here! The Entrepreneur Showcase is a highlight at Northern California Farm Fests. The presenters get creative to make their points, including Merrilee Olson (left) of Preserve Sonoma, a new co-packing operation serving small local food producers. Other presenting entrepreneurs: CropMobster, Hip Chick Farms, Fearless Chocolate, LOKL and Baia Nicchia Farm.


Many connections among food entrepreneurs, investors and activists are created at the Farm Fests. In addition to the presenters (see above), participants included SAGE, Vital Systems, Chirp, Bay Area Green Tours, Kitchen Table Advisors, Finance for Food, Monterey Chocolate, California FarmLink and Credibles.


Of course, when Slow Money people meet, there is good food. In June, Northern California is especially generous with delicious fresh fruit and vegetables. “Outsiders tell us that we’re crazy to organize a potluck with over 200 attendees,” notes Farm Fest producer Peter Ruddock. “However, I tell them that we’re Slow Money, and we feed ourselves well.” The event at Sunol AgPark delighted the eaters, again.

During the last year, investors of Slow Money Northern California have invested over $300,000 in enterprises that previously presented at Farm Fests. For information about future Northern California events and participating in Farm Fests, visit

Our Sow Your Seed Funding workshop teaches entrepreneurs to become investment-ready

“This workshop was easily the single most useful event to learn about getting funded.” That was the feedback event organizer Jill Epner heard frequently from some of the 80 entrepreneurs participating in the Sow Your Seed Funding workshop in May.

Yes, the food entrepreneurs who approach Slow Money tend to know their food; they are comfortable with what they produce. However, when it comes to business planning, investment pitches or funding approaches, they are hungry for orientation and assistance. In collaboration with the Hub, Slow Money Northern California answered the call, offering a one-day workshop filled with sessions about legal essentials, storytelling practice and crowd funding how-tos.

A panel with investors from venture capital, angel groups and foundations provided food business founders with valuable insights about the expectations of their potentials funders. “I’m so glad that I’m not running into an investor conversation without knowing what I learned today,” said one of the participants.

For more information about the agenda and takeaways, write to

Slow Money Southern California

Reported by Brent Collins.

Three companies in post-gathering funding discussions; monthly events; website under development.

On July 10th at the San Diego Pubic Market, Slow Money hosted 95 attendees, 11 food booths, presentations of business opportunities, and networking around the idea of building a connected community that directly supports local food and ag entrepreneurs.

Slow Money launched a Southern California chapter late last year in a region that includes 22 million people in Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego and Inland Empire counties. Besides its big, diverse population, California is the No. 1 state in cash farm receipts, representing 11.6 percent of the U.S. total. Efforts to grow the chapter have gone primarily into building out the leadership team across these diverse counties, as well as developing standard processes and infrastructure to support local county teams now set up in L.A., Orange and San Diego counties.

Two SoCal companies (Out of the Box Collective in L.A. and Archi’s Acres in Escondido) have made progress in discussions with investors following presentations at the national event in April and several local events. Golden Coast Mead has already raised $42,000 with the existing informal Slow Money network and is seeking an additional $73,000. Many other entrepreneurs are in early stages of discussions with potential investors.

SoCal’s latest gathering at the San Diego Public Market attracted nearly 100 attendees, with 11 food booths, 11 entrepreneur presentations and outstanding networking around the idea of building a connected community that directly supports local food and ag entrepreneurs.

In April, we held a gathering under the stars at “Ship in The Woods” in Del Mar.

In late June, SoCal hosted a special event targeted at small farms where Val Dolcini, executive director of the USDA’s Farm Service Agency in California, presented a new microloan resource providing up to $35,000 with a current interest rate of 1.375 percent. The event not only brought in numerous local farmers but also began an alliance with USDA/FSA that enables mutually beneficial collaboration on providing new financial resources to small specialty farms.

Representatives from Slow Money SoCal also presented to a chapter of CCOF (organic certification), which was an important steppingstone to building awareness and participation of local farmers in the region.

Slow Money SoCal leaders also were invited to participate in a private round-table discussion with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. The team was again able to heighten awareness of Slow Money objectives and values, as well as present and discuss concerns relevant to our SoCal constituent members.

Our June gathering, the first held in Los Angeles, had an outstanding turnout of audience members, vendors, and entrepreneurs.

In early June, SoCal had its first Los Angeles gathering, which attracted around 75 attendees, with six food and vendor tables and six entrepreneur presentations, receiving outstanding feedback for the value it provided to the growing community of people in L.A. seeking community and opportunity around local, sustainable food business and new ways to invest.

May’s gathering in Orange County included entrepreneur presentations and special guest speaker Kari Hamerschlag, a senior food and agriculture analyst at the Environmental Working Group. She provided an update on the Farm Bill and explained how this massive piece of legislation affects California.

Earlier this year, Kari Hamerschlag, senior analyst at the Environmental Working Group (the nation’s leading environmental health research and advocacy organization), talked about the Farm Bill and how it would affect farmers, consumers and the local economy.

April’s gathering was San Diego County’s first local gathering and attracted 64 attendees and included eight local food and ag entrepreneurs.

All gatherings and events have attracted intense interest and demonstrate fertile ground for furthering the overall Slow Money mission. The SoCal team considers growing awareness, membership and value as important initial steps for establishing a solid presence across a large and diverse set of needs and opportunity in Southern California. Volunteers are just now beginning to work on a website and are building out the three local county teams.

With a strong and growing base, as well as committed leadership teams functioning in primary SoCal counties, the next step will be to improve the facilitation of community and resources for investors and entrepreneurs to connect, and to pursue donations that can help further the chapter’s growth.

Our next gathering is scheduled Aug. 15 in Orange County. For more information, visit the RSVP page or email



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