The Slow Money Letter, June 2014

 

Of Algorithms, People and Knowledge

by Woody Tasch — I arrived at this month’s inaugural Slow Money Canada meeting ready to share an excerpt of Michael Lewis’s new book, Flash Boys. Is there a more stark counterpoint for slow money, a better argument for bringing money back down to earth, than the excesses of high-frequency traders racing to achieve a few-millisecond trading edge?

Read »

Network Updates

As of June 1, 2014, over $35.5 million has been invested into more than 325 small food enterprises via 19 local networks and 10 investment clubs.

Canada Reported by Rory Holland

Slow Money Canada’s inaugural conference; investment club in the works.

Read »
Southern California Reported by Alison Caldwell

Local Investment Networking Club of Orange County launched; Riverside County joined the SoCal network; San Diego delivered another successful event.

Read »
Southern California Pt. 2 Reported by Kiva Zip

Kiva Zip funds first loan in collaboration with LINC-OC.

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Maine Reported by Bonnie Rukin

Slow Money Maine hosted highly successful first regional gathering.

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Slow Money 2014 in Louisville

Early bird closing soon: We just wanted to remind you that our discounted early registration rates end on June 30th. If you haven’t yet seen the speaker lineup and program, we hope you can take a look now.

Entrepreneur Showcase: We are now accepting Entrepreneur Showcase applications for Slow Money 2014. If you are a small food enterprise seeking capital and the opportunity to network, we invite you to fill out our online application.

Slow Money in the Media

Slow Money in Vancouver Vancouver Sun

For the first time, Slow Money gathered north of the border for Canada’s inaugural conference.

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En plein essor, le mouvement slow se décline à toutes les sauces Le Matin Dimanche

Swiss daily newspaper article about the “slow” movement and Slow Money

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Why Purpose, Not Cash, Is King In The Food Industry Forbes

Slow Money receives mention in food industry overview.

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Woody Tasch

By Woody Tasch

I arrived at this month’s inaugural Slow Money Canada meeting ready to share an excerpt of Michael Lewis’s new book, Flash Boys. Is there a more stark counterpoint for slow money, a better argument for bringing money back down to earth, than the excesses of high-frequency traders racing to achieve a few-millisecond trading edge?

Turns out there is.

And it is this: A venture capital fund called Deep Knowledge Ventures has just announced the appointment of a computer algorithm to its board of directors.

No, I’m not making this up. No, this is not an article in The Onion. This is real news. This is financial reality as of June 2014, on this little old ball of whirling, zooming, and life-of-its-own cyber-money called Planet Earth.

Makes me think back to Niall Ferguson’s prescient observation in The Ascent of Money: “Planet Finance is starting to dwarf Planet Earth.”

Here’s the Business Insider piece on the algorithm’s appointment:

A Venture Capital Firm Just Named An Algorithm To Its Board Of Directors

A Hong Kong VC fund has just appointed an algorithm to its board.

Deep Knowledge Ventures, a firm that focuses on age-related disease drugs and regenerative medicine projects, says the program, called VITAL, can make investment recommendations about life sciences firms by poring over large amounts of data.

Just like other members of the board, the algorithm gets to vote on whether the firm makes an investment in a specific company or not. The program will be the sixth member of DKV’s board.

VITAL’s software was developed by UK-based Aging Analytics.

“[The goal] is actually to draw attention developing it as an independent decision maker,” Deep Knowledge Venture’s Charles Groome told BI.

How does the algorithm work?

VITAL makes its decisions by scanning prospective companies’ financing, clinical trials, intellectual property and previous funding rounds.

Groome says it has already helped approved two investment decisions (though has not yet cast its first vote), both of which resemble its own function: In Silico Medicine, which develops computer-assisted methods for drug discovery in aging research; and In Silico’s partner firm Pathway Pharmaceuticals, which employs a platform called OncoFinder to select and rate personalized cancer therapies.

“It’s not what you’d call AI at this stage, but that is the long-term goal,” Groome said.

Let’s leave out the irony of the venture firm’s name: Deep Knowledge. No, let’s not leave it out. I suppose this is the fundamental issue: What is the difference between data and knowledge? Between knowledge and wisdom? What kind of information do we need in order to make what kind of decisions? What kind of knowledge might we call deep?

Slow Money board member Eliot Coleman speaks eloquently about the difference between deep organics and shallow organics. No need to belabor the distinctions here, other than to recite Eliot’s wonderfully insightful maxim: “Feed the soil, not the plant.”

It makes me imagine two cartoons. The first depicts a board table around which five people and one laptop are seated, with everyone saying “Aye.” The second, the same board table, around which five laptops and one person are seated, with the five laptops saying “Aye” and the one person saying “No.”

The “Ayes” have it.

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Slow Money Southern California

Reported by Alison Caldwell.

Local Investment Networking Club of Orange County launched; Riverside County joined the SoCal network; San Diego delivered another successful event.

Slow Money SoCal is growing strong at the center of local food and finance by building relationships between communities, entrepreneurs, and new investment opportunities. Slow Money SoCal represents Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, and the new addition of Riverside County. Slow Money SoCal sees each Southern California region as vital to the other. Every four months the Slow Money SoCal meeting rotates to a different county. The gatherings feature entrepreneurs who showcase their products, keynote speakers, panel discussions, networking, and free raffles donated by our artisans. Slow Money SoCal also recently introduced the Kiva Zip loan model for local entrepreneurs.

 
Hundreds of San Diegans convene for Slow Money SoCal’s San Diego gathering at Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens.

San Diego: Slow Money SoCal San Diego is gaining momentum, with average attendance at 2014 gatherings reaching more than 200. The like-minded Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens has generously donated its courtyard venue for the gatherings. The May event discussed the California drought, featuring water experts from the San Diego County Farm Bureau. The upcoming September gathering will focus on seeds and the economy.

 
Frank Golbeck of Golden Coast Mead and Slow Money NoCal leader Marco Vangelisti at the Slow Money SoCal Orange County gathering.

Orange County: Slow Money SoCal Orange County has inspired the launch of the Local Investment Networking Club of Orange County. LINC-OC is a network of individuals who invest directly in Slow Money entrepreneurs and has become a trustee of Kiva Zip. Slow Money SoCal Orange County’s successful gatherings attract entrepreneurs and investors to network and listen to keynote speakers such as Slow Money–minded economist Marco Vangelisti. At our upcoming gathering (June 16 at The Shed in Dana Point), Bridget Reilly of Royal Tea and Treatery will offer attendees the opportunity to directly invest via her LINC-OC-backed Kiva Zip loan campaign.

 
Los Angeles startup Savour This Sauce at the Lexington Social House in Hollywood for the Slow Money SoCal L.A. gathering.

Los Angeles: Slow Money SoCal L.A. is celebrating its first Kiva Zip loan (backed by LINC-OC) of $5,000 to L.A. entrepreneur Jennifer Piette of Out of the Box Collective. Our next gathering will be July 16, 2014, at the Bar Nine Collective. We will discuss Farm to Roasting, with a panel discussion of leading fair-trade and artisan coffee businesses from the L.A. region.

Riverside County: Slow Money SoCal is excited to welcome Riverside County into the chapter. Slow Money SoCal Riverside represents an agricultural corner of the region where 11 percent of the county is designated for agricultural use— unprecedented for a Southern California city of its size. The first official Riverside gathering will take place in August, with a “meet and greet” Slow Money event on June 16 at The Salted Pig.

 

Slow Money Southern California Pt. 2

Reported by Justin Renfro of Kiva Zip.

Local Investment Networking Club of Orange County successfully funded first loan via Kiva Zip.

A local network of Slow Money, the Local Investment Networking Club of Orange County (LINC-OC), has been actively building relationships among farmers, food artisans and producers in Southern California since 2012.

LINC-OC has become a partner of Kiva Zip (KivaZip.org), which allows them to recommend entrepreneurs for 0 interest, 0 fee loans that are funded by a global community of good people. Kiva Zip is the US program of Kiva, which is the world’s first and largest micro-lending website.

Building a strong relationship with the entrepreneur is a critical element in the Kiva Zip underwriting process. Loans are made on the basis of character and the positive social impact of their business. LINC-OC recently endorsed two business owners who are integral members of the Slow Money SoCal family:

 
Jennifer Piette, Out of the Box Collective

Jennifer Piette runs Out of the Box Collective and created something wonderfully unique in this “Farm to Table Home Delivery Service”. She sources the highest quality food from local and sustainable producers, and then “curates” items from every food group into weekly delivery boxes, accompanied by seasonal meal plans and recipes featuring the groceries in each box.

Jennifer successfully raised $5,000 on Kiva Zip from 250 lenders around the world to help her redesign her website and help with her marketing efforts.

 
Bridget Reilly, The Royal Tea and Treatery

Bridget Reilly recently opened The Royal Tea and Treatery, a gluten and dairy free bakery and tea house in Orange County. Her motto is, “If it’s done well, you can’t tell”, and her clients agree that Bridget’s baked goods and luncheon fare are every bit as delicious as any containing these common allergens.

Bridget is currently raising $5,000 to purchase equipment and services, which are essential to her success during these the first few months of operation. You can learn more about it here.

If you or someone you know could benefit from a Kiva Zip loan you can get learn more and get started here.

 

Slow Money Canada

Reported by Rory Holland.

Slow Money Canada’s inaugural conference; investment club in the works.

Woody Tasch (L), Rory Holland (M) and Jean-Martin Fortier (R) at Slow Money Canada’s inaugural conference.

“What a fantastic event Slow Money was. Well done. I loved it and was inspired and encouraged. Thank you!”

Last Friday over 100 folks gathered in a small theatre on Granville Island in Vancouver, BC and found inspiration and enthusiasm for Slow Money. From Woody’s opening Keynote to the Leslie Christian’s closing talk the case was convincingly made that investing in the local food economy just makes sense.

The investment opportunities showcased in the afternoon ranged from Skipper Otto, a community supported fishery seeking money for a new processing plant to Hua Foundation, engaging Chinese fresh food markets in town with new opportunities for organic, local Asian greens. As one audience member said “in 25 years of watching ‘pitch’ sessions, never have I seen nine companies do such a great job”.

Coming out of the conference many new connections were made, and there are already plans are in the works for an Investment Club. It’s clear that the Slow Money infection has moved north of the border.

 

Slow Money Maine

Reported by Bonnie Rukin.

Slow Money Maine hosted a highly successful first regional gathering.

In May, Slow Money Maine held its first regional gathering: “GROW IT! The New Food Economy.” The event celebrated our regional collaborations and explored case studies of food businesses in Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont. Our gathering kicked off with a walking tour of Portland food businesses and nonprofits, followed by a social hour and Taste of Slow Money Maine, showcasing network food producers. Rain shifted to sunshine by midday, setting the mood for an educational, tasty, and highly enjoyable gathering.

Here are the event highlights:

  • John Naylor of Rosemont Market & Bakery opened Day Two with a history of his community-focused markets in Portland.
  • We examined case studies of two early-stage businesses: Marada Cook’s Northern Girl (vegetable processing) and Ben Slayton’s Farmer’s Gate Market (butcher shop). Alex Linkow of Fair Food Network, John Piotti of Maine Farmland Trust, Gray Harris of CEI, and Paul Skydell, a private investor, also shared glimpses of company triumphs, challenges, and technical assistance.
  • Portland Mayor Michael Brennan provided an inspiring talk about local food initiatives.
  • We discussed case studies of two growth-stage businesses: Greg Georgaklis’s Farmers to You (a Vermont-to-Boston food service) and Jared Auerbach’s Red’s Best (Boston-based fish aggregation & sales). They shared their endeavors, with supporting commentary from Janice St. Onge of VSJF Flexible Capital Fund and Dan Pullman and Lisa Sebesta of Fresh Source Capital.

These exchanges contribute to the success of food-system businesses by emphasizing the relationships surrounding necessary financial transactions.

At the end of our gathering, Slow Money participants from Massachusetts suggested hosting a similar gathering next spring, an idea we strongly encourage!

Many thanks to event planners Linzee, Kari, Gray, and Vicki who brought their amazing talents to this offering that served more than 150 people in highly satisfying ways.

 


 

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Woody Tasch

Food for Thought, For Becoming at Home in Our Place, For Thoughtfulness in Producing Food

By Gary Nabhan

With future generations in mind, may my family and friends never leave the land we steward poorer, nor its water scarcer than conditions were before we acquired responsibility for their care.

May we keep land meant to be farmed from being de-veloped, and re-envelope it with people dedicated to keep its inherent productivity in tact into perpetuity.

May we work as “greenhorns” to offer dignity, reciprocity and respect to the “grayhorns” willing to offer their land to us, and to never betray our covenant with them and the land itself.

May we seek to enrich the soil, diversify its plant cover and deepen its roots both within and beyond its harvested fields, its grazed pastures, or its orchards.

May we be diligent in learning how our practices affect those who live above and below us in our foodshed and watershed— not only the human lives, but all other-than-human lives as well.

May we participate in the regional culture of this land, and whenever possible, engage in the community rites and calendric rhythms that bind us to our place.

May we work to link the consumers of the food, fiber and timber we produce to the land on which it is produced, so that their values and ours are developed in harmony rather than in completion or in conflict.

May we encourage our members, friends and neighboring consumers to vote for what is best for the land at the polling booth where our choices help determine its governance, and at the table where what we choose to eat can benefit rather than harm the community at large.

May we share with our neighbors not only our successes in stewardship, but cautionary words of wisdom gained from our past failures as well, so that the principles that guide us and the practices that work on the ground are spread throughout this landscape.

May we refrain from solely focusing on increasing the saleable products from the land, but also on investing in the underlying natural processes which generate those products.

May we experiment with ways to control pests, diseases and weeds in a manner that does least harm to pollinators like bees and monarchs, predators, and

May we make long-term decisions about the destiny of the land and the choice of its future caretakers by asking a simple question: “What would the land itself want?” just as some Christian land ethicists often ask, “What would Jesus do if he were a farmer, fisher or forager?”

May we stay as humble as this blessed earth itself.


Message sent through Brother Coyote, OEF, aka Grayhorn Gary Paul Nabhan, to celebrate the Agrarian Trust forum in Berkeley CA in April of 2014

 

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April 2014

OPINION: From Bitcoin to Beets

The recent collapse of Mt. Gox and the “inconvenience,” in its CEO’s words, caused by the disappearance of hundreds of millions of dollars of Bitcoin investors’ money, should make us all think about the history of finance and … organic beets.

Read more »

First Slow Money France Investment

Slow Money Francophone members closed a first investment in January 2014, a 100,000 euro equity investment in Organic Seed Company in France. This will help the company to satisfy growing demand from private and professional gardeners, as well as to develop some site diversification on the farm.

Read more »

Slow Money 2014 Nov. 10–12, Louisville, KY

Early bird registration for our 2014 gathering is open! This year’s speakers include Vandana Shiva, Joel Salatin, Amy Domini, Patrick Holden, Mary Berry, Gary Nabhan, Eliot Coleman, and Greg Steltenpohl.

Register now »

Food, Money, Soil

Good Food Revolution: In Milwaukee, Will Allen uses a novel approach to create integrated food systems for local communities. He produces multiple food sources, including fish and produce, by ingeniously mixing a variety of farming practices, ranging from vermiculture to aquaponics. Information artwork by Douglas Gayeton for the Lexicon of Sustainability. Douglas will be speaking at our 2014 gathering.

Network Updates

Wisconsin Reported by Beth Gehred.

Funded six entrepreneurs over the past 12 months for an approximate investment total of $600,000.

Read more »

Vancouver Reported by Rory Holland.

We are very excited to announce that Vancouver has been chosen for the Spring 2014 West Coast Regional Gathering.

Read more »

Iowa Reported by Iowa City Press-Citizen.

Details about the launch of new investment club, Iowa Pollinators LLC.

Read more »

Maine

The network has grown to 892 people and a funding total of $8.6mm.

Read more »

Slow Money in the Media

Share the Bounty Natural Resources Defense Council

NRDC features an interview with Woody Tasch in the spring issue of their magazine.

Read more »

One-Stop Site Paints A Clearer Picture For Impact Investors

Forbes

Sure, the impact investing and social enterprise world is thriving. But it’s also disjointed and often confusing, with a variety of groups, startups, investors, schools, conferences, and even basic terminology.

Read more »

The secret ingredient to slow food:
Slow cash Grist

When I spoke with Tim Crosby, director of Slow Money Northwest, he was working on a deal at the Finn River Cidery.

Read more »

 

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Woody Tasch

By Woody Tasch

The recent collapse of Mt. Gox and the “inconvenience,” in its CEO’s words, caused by the disappearance of hundreds of millions of dollars of Bitcoin investors’ money, should make us all think about the history of finance and … organic beets.

We invented joint stock companies in 1600, came to what appeared to be an inexhaustible continent, took everything, cut it up into pieces and started selling it to strangers, only to find ourselves finally selling Ones and Zeros and Sliced and Diced Who-Knows-What Derivatives to invisible strangers. In milliseconds and in incomprehensibly large quantities.

Then came Bitcoin.

Then came Bitcoin “mining.”

Now, I could rant about the absurdity of roomfulls of servers, funded by venture capitalists, applying the extractive, industrial mentality of mining to the techno-seductiveness of virtual currency, but I’d rather talk about organic beets.

As in, thousands of us starting to invest in local, organic food enterprises—something startlingly common sensical yet seemingly radical in today’s byzantine world of hypersecuritized capital markets.

Under the improbable banner of something called Slow Money—let’s call it the polar opposite of Bitcoin—we are acting on the visceral sense that there is such a thing as money that is too fast, securities that are too abstract and complex, and companies that are too big.  We are fermenting a peaceable little non-technological revolution in investing.

It’s as if we were taking all the macro numbers of economic growth—the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the Case Shiller Index, GDP, Consumer Confidence, the value of all the barrels of oil still in the ground—and throwing them into a jar along with some friendly bacteria of the Care of the Commons, Sense of Place, Diversity and Nonviolence Kind.

Over the last few years, the Slow Money network has put over $35 million into over 300 small food enterprises around the country (and a few in Canada, France and Switzerland), supporting small and mid-size organic farms and the many small food businesses that create jobs, revitalize Main Street, build carbon in the soil (where we want carbon, as opposed to in the atmosphere), improve health, and create fertility at the base of a restorative economy.

This is a small part of a larger movement that is asking:  After all the globalization and financial razzmatazz, don’t we need to bring some of our money back down to earth?

A number of NGOs are emerging to rebuild local economies, including the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, the Post-Carbon Institute and the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.   Small new investment intermediaries are emerging too, including RSF Social Finance, Mission Markets and Farmland LP.

To fix our economy from the ground up, we need to do more than Buy Green and Buy Local.  We need to do more than regulate the excesses of Too Big Too Fail.  We need to Invest Local.   We need to take a little of our money out of there—the abstract, complex, ultra-fast world of global investing—and put it to work here—near where we live, in things that we understand.

Food is a great place to start.  Slow Money investments are supporting dairy coops, organic grain mills, regional food hubs, seed companies, restaurants that source locally, compost companies, niche organic brands, grassfed beef producers and more.   Investments have ranged in size from a few million dollars to a few thousand dollars.   Investors include experienced angel investors and family foundations, but are mostly just plain regular folks who want to know where their food comes from and where there money goes.

You may ask: Is this investing or is this philanthropy?

The answer is embedded in the experience that more than half a million Americans are having as members of CSAs—farms that sell shares of their production in advance of each season. I’ve asked thousands of CSA members around the country: How many of you ever calculated quantitative metrics supporting your decision to join a CSA—food miles, price, nutrient density, pesticide levels, organic matter in the soil or any other such factors? In many years of asking this question, only a few people have raised a hand and said they had done any such calculating.

This suggests that hundreds of thousands of Americans are using a sense of innate value to pre-pay for food from a local farmer. They are entering into an arrangement that is part investment decision, part consumption decision, part transaction, part relationship, part capitalism, part socialism, both deeply conservative and deeply liberal.

This is where we must head if want a healthy economy. Away from Bitcoin and towards beets. Away from anonymous transactions and towards healthy relationships.  Away from computer screens and towards farms and fertility. Beyond financial diversification and towards diversity—ecological diversity, cultural diversity, economic diversity.

Because, after all, what is more diverse than a gram of fertile soil, with its billions of micro-organisms and thousands of species, most of them not yet named?

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Slow Money Francophone was launched last year by Arvind Ashta (Chair of Finance at the Burgundy School of Commerce), Aymeric Jung (Impact investor) and Raphaël Souchier (sustainable local development consultant & author [1]). We also now can count on a nice small team of voluntary young professionals.

After participating in a series of conferences in France, Switzerland and Belgium, and working with several foundations as well as the main social economy networks active in the field of financing food and agriculture, we have established good working relationships with most existing key players and some national media.

Among these individuals and organizations are :

  • Philippe Desbrosses, one of the pioneers of organic farming in France ;
  • Charles Hevre Gruyere, from the Bec-Hellouin permaculture farm and training center, and a friend of Eliot Coleman ;
  • Leo Coutellec / MIRAMAP, an association of ten regional CSA networks ;
  • The Colibris citizens grassroots movement ;
  • SFG/Sustainable Finance Geneva ;
  • Guibert del Marmol, the Lunt foundation (Belgium).

Slow Money Francophone members closed a first investment in January 2014,  a 100,000 euro equity investment in Organic Seed Company in France.  This will help the company to satisfy growing demand from private and professional gardeners, as well as to develop some site diversification on the farm.

New potential investments are being analyzed.  We also are looking for communities interested in partnering in the development of pilot projects that support sustainable local food systems.

 


[1] « Made in Local », Editions Eyrolles, Paris, 9-2013.

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Good Food Revolution
Good Food Revolution: In Milwaukee, Will Allen uses a novel approach to create integrated food systems for local communities. He produces multiple food sources, including fish and produce, by ingeniously mixing a variety of farming practices, ranging from vermiculture to aquaponics. His “Growing Power” model provides a measurable level of food security for his community and has been adopted by food activists around the country. Information artwork by Douglas Gayeton for the Lexicon of Sustainability.

Lexicon of Sustainability

 

 

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Slow Money Wisconsin

Reported by Beth Gehred.

Funded six entrepreneurs over the past 12 months for an approximate investment total of $600,000.

Bill Anderson, of Crème de la Coulée, offering Wisconsin Artisan Cheeses made from raw pastured milk.

Slow Money Wisconsin (SMW) is building a track record as it finds its place in the state’s food and finance ecosystem. Since spring 2013, Slow Money Wisconsin/LION Business and Investor Showcase participants have raised more than $600,000.

“The Showcase was the catalyst for the bulk of the investment I received,” says Bartlett Durand, the entrepreneur behind Black Earth Meats, a USDA-inspected and Animal Welfare Approved processing facility with organic certification from the Iowa Department of Agriculture. “$375,000 can be directly tied to the Showcase, with $75,000 from people I met at the meeting, and $300,000 from those who had me on a watch list and then saw that I was presenting and stepped up their process.” Black Earth Meats provides meat to many restaurants, retailers, and cafeterias in Southern Wisconsin; the investment funds also helped Bartlett open a fresh meat retail outlet in Madison: The Conscious Carnivore, which sells healthfully raised, humanely treated, locally harvested, and helpfully traded beef, pork, lamb, and poultry.

Showcase benefits extended even beyond monetary investment, say Adrian Reif and Matt D’Amour, owners of Yumbutter, a B-Corporation that manufactures nut butters: “[We appreciated] the opportunity to fine-tune our plan, develop a great mentor, and continue building the buzz around our company and world-changing mission.” Since the Showcase and Accelerator, Yumbutter attracted investment to expand its Buy One:Feed One business model, ran a successful crowd-funding campaign, launched a new product line, and is increasing its distribution network to position itself for growth and profitability.

 
Adrian Reif and Matt D’Amour, Yumbutter

• 2013 Showcase presenter Gilbert Williams of Lonesome Stone Milling increased his capacity to process Wisconsin-grown grains by receiving conventional financing to purchase land for building a warehouse. Williams spoke at the 2014 Showcase, held March 27–28, where attributed his progress to the technical assistance he received through SMW’s partnership with University of Wisconsin–Extension’s Food and Finance Institute.

 
Gilbert Williams of Lonesome Stone Milling, a processor of locally grown and freshly stone-ground organic wheat, rye, and corn products from southwest Wisconsin

• The 2014 Showcase featured nine businesses—poSaNa organics, Blue Vista Farm (blueberries), Simply Native Foods, Badger Kraut and Pickle, Bryant Family Farm, JRS Country Acres, Underground Food Collective, MobCraft Beer, and Beepods—which are now honing their messages and working with attendees to source the capital needed for the next stage of their businesses.

As results from the Showcases percolate, the Willy Street Co-op Local Vendor Loan Fund—a groundbreaking loan fund partnership to support local food businesses—is close to announcing its first round of investments. Slow Money Wisconsin partnered with the Fund by raising capital and helping to determine how deals would be identified, evaluated, and presented. Along with SMW, the Fund’s key partners are natural food store Willy Street Co-op, a CDFI Fund, Forward Community Investments, and the University of Wisconsin–Extension. In the upcoming months, the Fund will issue $100,000 in loans to qualified Co-op vendors, who will receive technical assistance throughout the life of the loan.

Crème de la Coulée Artisan Cheese is likely to be the Fund’s first recipient. Owner Bill Anderson presented in the 2013 Showcase, wowing the crowd with his first-rate soft cheeses and his passion. Consumers embrace the young cheesemaker’s work, but he needed more working capital to expand his business. The Fund’s managers found Crème de la Coulée a good fit for their mission.

SMW also supported a three-day Food and Finance Accelerator in fall 2013. This technical assistance marathon drew aside the curtain of food finance packaging for entrepreneurs and investors alike, creating a pipeline of businesses that were in better position to apply to present this spring. One attendee, Steve Acheson of Peacefully Organic Produce and CSA, a veteran-led farm, used what he learned at the Accelerator to find conventional start-up financing.

Future SMW goals include mission-led educational and outreach activities to fund operating expenses for the formation of a 501c3. SMW’s first webinar, featuring Marco Vangelisti speaking on “Investing for the World We Want,” will be held April 24 at 7 p.m. Central Time; register by clicking here or visiting the SMW website at slowmoneywisconsin.org.

Slow Money Wisconsin is working to cultivate the ecosystem needed to build a healthful and resilient food system in the state. Investment money alone is important to bring to the table, but not the full solution. An educated and supportive citizenry, engaged conventional lenders, a web of technical assistance providers, including those focusing on financial packaging, which is hard to find anywhere else—plus mentorship and goodwill between local businesses need to be part of the vision. SMW thanks all who understand what it takes and are striving to make it happen.

 

Slow Money Canada

Reported by Rory Holland.

For the first time, Slow Money is gathering north of the border.

 
Vancouver, CA

Vancouver is a food town. It’s packed with great restaurants and surrounded by local, commercial growers of all kinds. Urban market gardens occupy empty lots, rooftops, and high schools all over the city. Backyards boast veggie patches and fruit trees.

Vancouver is also an innovation hub. Dubbed “Silicon Valley North,” it’s home to hundreds of start-ups and brilliant, fresh-idea companies.

With its passion for growing both food and ideas, Vancouver is the perfect place to host an inaugural West Coast Slow Money Gathering, June 5–6, 2014. Farmers, thinkers, innovators, investors, and activists will assemble to exchange ideas, celebrate successes, plan future courses of action—and enjoy a really great party.

Set on Granville Island—in the middle of the city and the site of the biggest local food market—the program includes Keynote addresses by Woody Tasch, founder of Slow Money, and Leslie Christian, an influential leader in social and environmental investing. Other highlights include an expert panel discussion on “farms, food, and finance” and a showcase of ten innovative food enterprises.

For more information or to register, click here.

 

Slow Money Maine

Slow Money Maine (SMM) is on the rise. In the past year, we’ve expanded our network from 650 to 892 people, and we’ve increased funding transactions from $4 million to $8.6 million—and growing! More than 80 people attend our bimonthly gatherings, and our annual daylong event in 2013 attracted a sold-out crowd of 150 people, with many more turned away, for the first time since SMM began in 2010.

Key programs facilitate this growth. We sponsor six community convenings and two investment clubs that provide community education, connection, and engagement. Through networking opportunities, presenter showcases, and updates at our regular gatherings, participants are inspired and eager to learn more about direct support of Maine food system endeavors. This support includes funding, initiating and facilitating community programs, mentoring, and connecting others with opportunities for involvement. Our investment clubs, with about 35 members combined, bring people from many Maine communities together to meet each other, as well as local farmers and producers, in order to make loans from pooled funds.

In 2014, we sponsored a new post-Camden Conference event and will host our first-ever New England regional gathering. Our volunteer coordinator and 10-member Steering Committee continue to lead the network with the skills and missionary zeal responsible for SMM’s rapid growth.


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Slow Money
Click to read the opening letter
The Slow Money Letter July 2013
Woody TaschWoody Tasch Dear Slow Money Friend,
Foodishiary. Wait, read that again, slowly: food ish iary. It took a little nerve to introduce the term at our national gathering, but its reception was very heartening, indeed. There was a bit of laughter, a bit of applause and a lot of good will, as I rattled off the meanings of this companion to that tired old term, fiduciary. We’ve been dealing with the consequences of fiduciary responsibility for a few hundred years now, in its modern incarnation. And if traditional fiduciary responsibility won’t allow us to steer money into small-food enterprises near where we live, well, then, we need a new definition of responsibility that will.  Read letter.
Relocalize

Cows Come Home to $3.9 Million Investment in MOOMilk

By Eleanor Kinney, Slow Money Founding Member

A recent multimillion-dollar investment in MOOMilk, an L3C based in Augusta, Maine, that produces organic milk from dairies around the state, is enough to stabilize a company whose story includes an admittedly rocky start. The inception of MOOMilk was a leap of faith. Born out of crisis in 2009, when 10 organic Maine dairy farms lost their contract with HP Hood, a national milk company, MOOMilk launched as an undercapitalized startup on a shoestring budget. See more.

Slow Money Entrepreneur of the Year Focuses on Food Justice

By Eric Kornacki, Revision International Executive Director

Revision International won the $50,000 Mamma Chia Slow Money Entrepreneur of the Year Award at the fourth Slow Money National Gathering this past April in Boulder, Colo., along with an additional $60,000 that was pledged May 1 during an Earthworm Angel investor meeting. Revision International, also called Revision, is a Denver-based nonprofit that works with low-income communities that often lack the access or the means to buy and eat healthy food. Revision helps people in these communities become self-sufficient and sustainable, using a resident-led approach that creates local talent, resources and wealth.  See more.

Slow Money Minute

Video Embed

Click above to enjoy this month’s Slow Money Minute, brought to you by Mary Berry, the executive director of the Berry Center and daughter of Wendell Berry. Then send us your own Slow Money Minute telling us what “bringing money back down to earth” means to you and how what you do in the world dovetails with the Slow Money principles and vision.

Illustrations by Jere Dean / Urban Octopus

Chapters

California chapters have abundant news after our national gathering.

San Luis Obispo County
Reported by Jeff Wade.
Funded six entrepreneurs over the past 12 months for an investment total of $200,000.  See more.

Slow Money Northern California
Reported by Arno Hesse.
Invested over $300,000 in enterprises that presented at Farm Fests during the last year.  See more.

Slow Money SoCal
Reported by Brent Collins.
Three companies in post- gathering funding discussions; monthly events; website under development.  See more.

Slow Money Index

Number of no-car American households more than a mile from a grocery store: 2.3 million

Percentage of “mom and pop” grocery stores compared with supermarkets in 1950: 50

Percentage today: 17

Number of total months since 2006 that “Food Justice” received more Google searches than “Justice League of America”: 14

See more.

Slow Money Principle #1

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