Slow Money

September 2012 Slow Money Letter

Woody Tasch Dear Slow Money Friend,

We’ve passed the $20 million mark.

That’s right. Over the past two years, more than $20 million has flowed, via Slow Money activities, into 170 small food enterprises across the United States. We now have 14 chapters and six investment clubs, with more on the way. Slow Money France is in formation. Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money is due to come out in China soon.

And next month we begin test marketing the Soil Trust. (Stay tuned.)

Is all of this relevant in an age of hyper-inflated Initial Public Offerings on the stock market and thousand point flash crashes?

Yes, it’s significant—precisely because this is the age of all manner of excess, volatility and confusion on Wall Street and global financial markets.

Together, we are doing something that Wall Street does not want to do, and something that foundations and government programs can only do to a limited degree. And we are doing so in a way that has the potential to shape the future of local food systems and affirmatively influence public awareness on many fronts.

A few recent examples: this mention of Slow Money in the Your Money column of the New York Times in August and this piece in the Denver Post a few weeks ago about our recent regional event in Colorado.

Every day I see indicators that we are very much on the right track, and I’m happy to share with you some of what I come across.

Consider:

New York Times. A September 9 article titled “In Search of A Market Speed Limit” is one of many recent articles on the problems presented by high frequency trading: computer trades measured in milliseconds that are beginning to dominate Wall Street.

WIRED magazine. The current issue features an article titled “Raging Bulls” that has the following lead in: “Wall Street used to bet on companies that build things. Now it just bets on technologies that make faster and faster trades.”

Grantham, Mayo & Van Otterloo. The July newsletter of one of the world’s leading money managers was devoted to the global food situation, including this citation of economist Kenneth Boulding: “Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.” Food writer Mark Bittman picked this up under the heading: “A Banker Bets On Organic Farming.”

Kauffman Foundation. This major foundation recently published very disappointing results of its decades of investing in venture capital funds. One of the headline-grabbing lessons learned: “The average venture capital fund fails to return investor capital after fees.”

Each of these is singing its own “What’s Broken In Finance” or “What’s Broken in the Food System” tune, but together they make a song that points to Slow Money.

Or, let’s frame it with a bit more activist oomph: We see your high frequency trading and your venture capital, your GMO this and your Too Big To Fail that, and we raise you Slow Money!

After all the protesting and the regulating, after all the fixing of that which is broken, and the governing of that which keeps spinning and consolidating and lobbying out of control, we have at hand an immediate and rewarding task; working directly with one another to invest in support of the entrepreneurs who are building the future we want to see.

Food is the place to start. Food is ground zero—the place where the economy meets the soil, where profitability meets fertility. It is where our efforts to build a restorative economy are grounded.

Does our future include millions of new organic farmers? Billions of sips of biodynamic wine? Trillions of happy earthworms? How about thousands of new CSAs? And how many new enterprises like Pt. Reyes Compost and Grass Run Beef, Snowville Creamery and Coyote Creek Grain Mill, Butterworks Farm and High Mowing Seeds, Lucky Penny Farm and Parish Hall Restaurant, Organic Valley and People’s Community Market, Maine Grains and MMLocal?

The prospect of such a future is worthy of our efforts, for reasons that no earthworm would need adumbrated.

The last few years of initial Slow Money activity have been a great start. This issue of the Slow Money Letter comes out as we move into what we are calling, internally, Phase 2.

We’ve moved the Slow Money national office to Boulder, CO, where we will be building a small team. We’re improving our communications, of which this newsletter is a part and which will soon include webinars. We’re developing the Soil Trust and learning from the early experience of our investment clubs. We’re engaged in a development campaign, raising new monies to support that which we’ve catalyzed and to work on next stages of expansion. Please contact us if you want information about any or all of this.

Looking ahead, with the promise to stay in better touch and with thanks to you all for lending a hand and an ear, a head and a heart.

—Woody Tasch

Editor’s Note: This is the first Slow Money Letter that we have published in quite awhile. We hope you like its new format and content. Please let us know what you think and what you’d like to see in future issues. We will be publishing with greater frequency going forward. WT.

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10 Responses to September 2012 Slow Money Letter

  1. Casimira says:

    When Ioriginally left a comment I appear to have clicked on the -Notify me when new
    comments aree added- checkbox and now every time a commen is added I recieve four emails with the exact same comment.
    There has tto bee an eay method you ccan remove me from that service?
    Many thanks!

  2. Hassie says:

    Organic farming means that agricultural goods, like dairy and meat,
    are grown without being triggered with chemicals and growth causing hormones.
    Scientific evidence has shown that there is a difference between organic and conventional produce.

    t involve pesticides or. Eleuthero works exceptionally well
    in helping us deal with stress. ” says Amber Bistro’s owner and sommelier, Eric Janssen.

  3. Angela King-Horne says:

    Thanks for the newsletter, and a belated thank you for your book, which I bought several copies of and gave away as presents. Maybe the newsletter could include specifics and guidance on where to invest.

    • Slow Money says:

      Thanks Angela,
      If you are looking for a related fund where you can place some of your money and begin heading down this path, we have a list of suggestions for existing services: http://slowmoney.org/invest

      If you want to begin putting some of your money to work directly with a farmer or small food enterprise, we recommend that you begin looking around in your community and determining what your needs are and what opportunities interest you most. If you would like to invest with a nationally showcased role-model local food enterprise, you can contact these featured entrepreneurs directly for more information:
      http://www.slowmoney.org/national-gathering/showcase.php

      Please do let us know how it goes! We would love to hear from you if you choose to make such an investment (of time, money, & energy).

  4. I like the newsletter and see great possibilities for its expansion and use by groups all over the country. I live in rural northern California where we have an established coop and many small farmers and other producers shifting toward more self-sufficiency within our area. More information about how others are making local marketing and sustainability work better would be helpful.

  5. Glenn Gall says:

    Add this to the list —
    http://www.capitalinstitute.org/blog/case-spending-down-charitable-foundation
    Question asked to the advisor of a foundation concerned about the environment — “’Have things become so critical – both in terms of the scale of the challenges we face but also the possibility of change – that this radical step [of spending down our assets over the next ten to fifteen years] is a good move?’ …
    … We must call on all stewards of financial capital to develop a strategy, directly or with their delegated authority, to meaningfully participate in the great challenge of civilization, what Thomas Berry called “The Great Work:” economic system transformation. What could be a higher purpose of capital?”
    A very radical proposal. Put everything else on hold. We have a crisis. Interesting that a foundation would be discussing this.

  6. Like the new format and enjoyed your letter Woody. I would add coops to your list of what the future of slow money will look like. In an age when rural folks working jobs in distant cities are seeing much of their paycheck going to gasoline it seems rural cooperatives that create home based income opportunities for numerous small landowners hold much potential.

    In that regard we are striving to create an alpaca fiber coop. As a percentage of the earths surface utilized, the production of fiber is second only to the production of food and much of that is used to grow cotton, a crop that many consider the most pesticide/fertilizer/water and energy intensive crop grown in the U.S. Furthermore, to grow cotton an ecosystem has to be plowed under to be replaced with a mono-crop of cotton. Unfortunately organic cotton offers little improvement; the ecosystem still gets destroyed, lots of water is still needed (I live in Az.) and leviathan, fuel-guzzling farm equipment is still used. To add insult to injury, most cotton is then shipped overseas to be made into textiles which are then shipped back to retailers in the U.S. – all the while consuming energy and leaving local cotton producing communities economically bereft. Alpacas can produce fiber from intact ecosystems that require no irrigation, no pesticides, no fertilizer and no fuel guzzling farm equipment. Best of all, alpaca coops like the one we have proposed will process and market this superb fiber locally, to help float many local boats.

    What about sheep? Alpacas are 23% more efficient at converting forage into meat and fiber than sheep and are adapted to foraging on drier landscapes than sheep. Alpaca fiber is stronger, lighter and warmer than wool, has a better “hand” than wool and is non-allergenic.

    With the establishment of a core herd that disseminates alpacas to coop members (similar to Hereford International), members can then produce fiber that would be processed in the coops mini-mill. Members could allow the coop to market rovings or spun fiber with the profits being shared equitably or have their fiber returned so they can weave it into value added products which the coop would then market for them.

    We are seeking funding for this community based project. For more information contact Kyle Young at erdakroft@gmail.com.
    Thanks for making this possible Woody.
    Kyle Young

  7. We are trying to find funding see website–To create a county farm museum featuring a working dairy goat value-added processing unit and small farm learning/nature center for the area. If you have any resources that could help we are open to assistance. The newsletter is very interesting to read and informs what others are doing.

    • Joel Moyer says:

      Kathy and Kyle,

      If you could let us out here in the Slow Money universe know where you located, that will help us help. As so much of this work is based in a sense of place, people of your region and community will be your best assets!

      Good luck with your projects and ventures!

  8. Tom Preece says:

    I am new to your news letter. I love to toil in my garden. This was the first one in 25 years. I am retired now and I have sometime. It does bring back memories of my youth on the farm. I want to stay connected and maybe someday get more involved. Woody I think your new letter is great and inspiring please keep me posted. I live in the panhandle of Florida about 80 miles east of Mobile AL in a seashore town call Gulf Breeze. Again Woody thank you for sending me this e-mail.
    Tom Preece

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