Since mid-2010, local Slow Money groups have emerged in well over a dozen locales around the country. With a new group forming in France and a local investment made in Switzerland, international activity is now officially under way. Some local groups are hosting local entrepreneur showcases, others are forming investment clubs. Many have members who have stepped out ahead and begun investing. Below we have collected reports from local volunteer leaders, including both recognized group activities and the formation of new local groups.
With a total population exceeding 37 million, California's economy is the 12th largest economy in the world (2012), if the state was compared with other countries. It is the number one state in cash farm receipts: with 11.6% of the US total. 81,500 CA farms and ranches received a record $43.5 billion for their output in 2011. More than 90% of CA farms are family owned or partnerships. 60% of the state’s farms are less than 50 acres in size. The food sector is an important part of its rich and diverse culture.
There are four local California networks: 1) Northern California, 2) Santa Barbara, 3) San Luis Obispo and 4) Southern California which is organized into collaborative county groups in Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego.
Slow Money Northern California organized an entrepreneur showcase on June 12, 2011 and a second showcase focused on North Bay enterprises at Tara Firma Farms on February 25, 2012. Another farm fest and showcase was hosted by Pie Ranch in Pescadero, CA on June 30, 2012, and there will be another in Summer 2013. Check the Northern Californa networks's website for forthcoming details. The Northern California group gathers monthly.
The Northern California group is also the point of origin for crowdfunding program in which food businesses are pre-paid with edible credits, or Credibles. If you like a local food business and their products, you can fund it by prepaying your purchases, with edible credits called Credibles, to be eaten over time. The new Credibles service, which will be offered in partnership with Slow Money, in now being made available across the nation. For more information, sign up at https://credibles.org
San Luis Obispo
|Virginia Marum of Vert Foods introduces her business and serves her nutrient-dense foods to the Slow Money SLO network this past January.|
Formation meetings; group recognition; first loan; 2013 promotion; building website.
The Slow Money San Luis Obispo County network (Slow Money SLO) is now active and growing, inspired by Woody’s presentation at a local sustainable food event benefiting the Cal Poly College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences. The group, formed by a founding member of Slow Money, gathered at the event and held its first meeting in July. The group met four times in 2012, has been formally recognized by Slow Money and has made its first loan.
Early participants in the Slow Money SLO meetings immediately brought a loan candidate to the table. The San Luis Obispo Natural Foods Co-op has been a source for local, quality and organic foods for 30 years, but it has seen increasing competition in the area. An opportunity to move to a nearby, larger location would allow it to carry more products, have a larger garden in the back and provide a more modern shopping experience for customers. It would also give the Co-op a chance to expand membership and improve their financial condition. A number of the local Slow Money members agreed to support the Co-op with $30,000 in total funding, and within a couple of months, terms were settled and loans made. The Co-op has started remodeling its future location and the move is anticipated within a few months.
Local events such as the Bioneers conference have given the group a chance to spread the word. Linking to local groups such as Transition Towns, the Central Coast Ag Network and the Economic Vitality Corporation has brought in more members. Additional promotion in print and at events will occur in early 2013 along with the announcement of the Co-op expansion and the role Slow Money has played. The Slow Money SLO group members bring extensive business and agriculture experience to the table and plan to support local entrepreneurs with services as well as funding.
|The scene at Future Foods Farms just before the SoCal Slow Money evening with Adam and Barbi Navali" September 2012 in Brea, CA.|
Each county team has three committees that help 1) drive events and outreach, 2) focus on entrepreneurs, and 3) focus on local investors. County teams organize monthly gathering that rotate locations and local team ownership across Southern California.
For more information, to see past SoCal events and to get involved, check out:
In November 2013, Living Soil Investments officially launched in Fort Collins before a group of 48. In the local library's community room, the founding investors hosted Woody Tasch to help them celebrate. Before the year was out, the group made its first loan to help with emergency oven repair of a local pie maker during the holiday rush. For more information, visit their website.
In Boulder, a commitment of $1.5 million in funding has been made by one local investor and one loan of $75,000 has been made. A local food alliance is in formation, in collaboration with BALLE and Transition Towns.
The first Slow Money Rocky Mountain Regional Gathering on September 1st, 2012 was held in Carbondale, CO in collaboration with Sustainable Settings, one of our 2011 nationally featured entrepreneurs.
Michael Brownlee reports from CO: "Two years ago Transition Colorado (a 501c3) got a kick-start from an individual who was so inspired by Woody Tasch and the Slow Money approach that he wound up entrusting our organization with a $1.5 million ten-year no-interest loan so we could begin investing in local food and farming enterprises.
This was a game-changer for a small grassroots non-profit. And after a year of receiving conflicting advice from a host of advisors, last fall we finally formed Localization Partners as an LLC. We plunged in, began investing, and started exploring how we could catalyze investments in local food economies. Among other things, we capitalized a Boulder-based startup food distribution company called Source Local Foods, which is up and running.
Then in March of this year, I got a call from an investor in Grant Family Farms, saying that the farm was headed towards the cliff, and this time it could be permanent. He wondered if Localization Partners could help somehow. Now, Grant Family Farms is not just any farm. It is the oldest and largest certified organic farm in Colorado, with nearly 2,000 acres under cultivation. Five years ago it launched a CSA, whose membership has grown to nearly 5,000 members today. The farm also ships produce to major retailers from Texas to the East Coast, and is even producing more than 400 acres in all-organic wheat, corn, and alfalfa.And this farm is not just a piece of ground, but a collection of smaller plots spread over several miles, mostly irrigated by center pivots drawing upon an ancient underground stream. As a food production system, it’s impressive, beautiful, inspiring. For us, this farm was too important to let it disappear.
To take this on, we organized Localization Partners Consulting LLC, and Localization Farm and Asset Management LLC, and Jim Ott took the lead in what would eventually become a massive turnaround operation. To begin with, we knew it was essential to get this season’s crops successfully planted, cultivated, harvested, and sold, and to get the CSA members served. We figured all of that would generate significant revenues, and some profits. But our projections showed that even with the CSA the whole operation would be significantly cash negative until about mid- to late-August, a rather breathtaking prospect, but one very familiar to many farmers these days. We decided we would have to raise $1.5 million in the course of a few weeks to finance the season’s crop. We created a simple investment vehicle, a six-month promissory note at a fairly high rate of interest, which was backed by the crop and guaranteed by Localization Partners.
We reached out to individuals we knew, including members of the Slow Money Investment Club. I’m delighted to say that these individual members, including Localization Partners, invested $650,000. All told, we were able to raise $1.6 million, and since we’ve had a great crop on the farm this season we anticipate that all of that money will be paid back by the end of the year. That’s Phase One.
Phase Two, underway now, is a radical restructuring of the farm into several enterprises, each of which needs to be capitalized, each of which needs its own management team. We see this becoming a network of farm-related operations, ultimately encompassing perhaps 10,000 to 15,000 acres in the Front Range.To help capitalize all of this, and to be able to invest in a variety of other food and farming enterprises, we’re now organizing a Localization Partners Enterprise Fund, initially pooling $5 million. We need to complete this round by early next year.
Through all of this, we helped catalyze a Slow Money Investment Club. We decided to model our group after the No Small Potatoes club launched in Maine. I have never experienced anything more chaotic, or more frustrating, or more inspiring or more promising than getting this little group going. Woody became a member of the club, as a recent arrival in Boulder, a local resident. Everybody has put in $5,000. We made our first investment this September, making a $12,000 loan (three years at 3%) to a one-year-old company, LoCo Food Distribution, based in Ft. Collins."
In the Berkshires, two Slow Money founding members have worked with a community foundation and The Carrot Project to establish a $250,000 local fund.
In Boston, an investment advisor who is a Slow Money founding member has steered $170,000 of client capital into three Slow Money deals. Slow Money Boston has held several public meetings and a local entrepreneur showcase. Local members have invested in City Feed & Supply and Tres Gatos Restaurant. Learn more about Boston's local investment club Sprout Lenders.
In the Pioneer Valley of Western Mass., two Slow Money founding members representing family foundations have collaborated to launch a fund called PV Grows, using program-related investments to lead the formation of a $750,000 loan fund. $200,000 out of that fund was deployed in their first loan to Organic Renaissance, a local food distributing company. The fund's second loan was made to the Northeast's only malthouse, Valley Malt, in April 2012.
Slow Money Maine participants have gifted or lent money to Maine Organic Milling Cooperative and over 50 other food enterprises. Slow Money Maine pioneered the concept of a local investment club (a total of 6 have now formed around the country) and the No Small Potatoes Investment Club in Maine has invested more than $50,000 to date. In 2012, $1.6 million in loans, grants and equity investments catalyzed; $4.1 million invested overall in 53 enterprises.
|Owners and staff of the Somerset Grist Mill step outside the former county jail in downtown Skowhegan, Maine.
Two Maine businesses that presented at the 2011 Slow Money conference in San Francisco are up and running. The Somerset Grist Mill, a flour milling business located in the former county jail in downtown Skowhegan, began milling flour last September. The mill produces wheat, rye and spelt flours from Maine-grown grains, as well as rolled Maine oats. The mill building houses two other local food businesses: The Pickup, a multifarm CSA that sources from 40 farms and food businesses and sells to local households, businesses and institutions; and the Skowhegan Farmers Market. The Farmers Market partners with the Wholesome Wave Foundation and is able to double the dollars spent by low-income households.
With the help of Slow Money Maine, the Somerset Grist Mill raised its startup financing from a variety of sources, including a Kickstarter campaign, loans from two Maine-based foundations, and patient loans that defer principal and interest for four years before being repaid over the following two years. The Grist Mill hopes to raise its final $50,000 in startup capital in the next several months.
|In the commissary kitchen with Northern Girl on the Loring Air Force Base in Caribou, Maine.|
Northern Girl sells Maine-grown fresh and frozen cut and peeled vegetables for institutional customers and the retail market. Northern Girl is now in its second year of production, and packages of Veggie Fries, Aroostook Roots Medley and Salad Bar Beets have hit grocery-store shelves in Maine to popular acclaim. Northern Girl has been operating out of the former commissary kitchen on the Loring Air Force Base in Caribou, Maine, and is in the process of building its own facility in Van Buren, which will allow it to increase volume and lower production costs.
In 2012, $45,000 in loans catalyzed; additional loans in the works for 2013; a total of $53,000 invested.
|In the fields with Riverbend Roots Farm, a five-acre vegetable farm in Alton, Ill.
Nine St. Louisans came together last year to form a food- and farm-focused investment club called Gateway Harvest. The club made one $5,000 loan and catalyzed an additional $25,000 in individual loans for the October opening of a Local Harvest Grocery location in Kirkwood, Mo.. Another $15,000 in loans were catalyzed for an expansion of the Local Harvest–Morgan Ford Cafe. Since 2007, the Local Harvest family, including a grocery store and cafe on Morgan Ford Road, a cafe and event space in downtown St. Louis, and a grocery/cafe combination in Kirkwood, has purchased more than $1 million in products from local farmers and food producers and has grown to employ close to 100 people. This year, the investment club has made a $2,000 loan to Riverbend Roots Farm in Alton, Ill., to build a cold-storage room in its barn. Other deals are in the pipeline, and we look forward to gaining momentum in 2013 with our St. Louis Local Food Town Hall.
In Santa Fe, a Slow Money founding member has made a $40,000 loan to the Santa Fe Alliance, whose Farm to Restaurant initiative is playing a leadership role connecting local food producers and restaurants.
Slow Money New York City hosted an entrepreneur showcase on May 14, 2011. Go here to see videos of the presenting entrepreneurs. Slow Money New York City, Stone Barns, and Slow Money co-hosted a regional Slow Money showcase on April 22, 2012.
Slow Money NC has inspired 90 lenders, to make 120 individual loans to 58 farmers and food entrepreneurs totaling nearly 1.2 million dollars. New local teams are forming throughout NC to move money into their local foodsheds.
Launch of Funds to Farms: A Celebration of Local Food, a new microfinancing project for farmers and food entrepreneurs.
Slow Money North Carolina kicked off 2013 with an exciting new program called Funds to Farms: A Celebration of Local Food. Together with the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, Slow Money NC recruited 33 applications from area farmers looking for capital. Five farmers were selected to pitch their ideas to a sellout crowd of some 120 people at a fund-raising dinner on January 27. Thanks to generous food and drink donations, the event at a local brewery raised $2,900, which was shared among the winning presenters. In the end, all the farmers took home cash — $1,000 for 1st place, $600 for 2nd place and $200 for the three runner-ups.
|More than 120 people enjoyed fresh local food at Slow Money North Carolina's first-ever Funds to Farms event.
The concept is based on the Soup Movement, which has taken hold in art enclaves in New York City, Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Louisville, Philadelphia and Detroit. Using a unique, community-based microfinance model, groups like FEAST and posSOUPbility are bringing people together over a bowl of soup as a way to raise money for community-minded projects.
Funds to Farms takes this microfunding process and applies it to beginning farmers and food entrepreneurs in the Carolinas. Plans are already under way for another Funds to Farms dinner in April or May!
Slow Money Ohio was launched in January 2012 and has since held numerous public meetings in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus. group members facilitated their first two loans for approximately $20,000 in total. This was followed in June by facilitating a $50,000 loan between an individual investor and Snowville Creamery, a presenter at the Slow Money second national gathering in Vermont, enabling the creamery to add a new milk truck. In July, a $100,000 seed investment was also finalized for Azoti, a Columbus-based startup running an online platform to distribute community supported agriculture (CSA) shares and help local farmers grow. In addition, more than 30 individual participants inspired by Slow Money have made over $350,000 of investments in local food enterprises in Ohio. Forming an investment club is next up on the local group agenda. Here's the Ohio group's latest update:
More than $170,000 in loans facilitated since network formed; loans led to national media and wider product distribution.
Our Slow Money investment loan to Lucky Penny Candy in Kent, Ohio, got national exposure when the Washington Post highlighted Lucky Penny’s delicious Cajeta, a goat milk caramel sauce, in a blog that featured 22 products out of thousands from the Fancy Food Show in Chicago. As a result, Lucky Penny Candy received significant orders with national food buyers, and the story enabled us to attract an investor who secured equipment for additional growth and expansion for the company.<
Our Slow Money loan to Storehouse Tea Company in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, enabled the business to offer a committed production line for Whole Foods Market, Earth Fare and Giant Eagle Market District grocery stores throughout Ohio and Pittsburgh, as well as specialty shops, regional food festivals and select farmers markets.
Our Cincinnati network held two “Local Loans for Local Foods” networking events, which resulted in several loans. Several other events are being planned throughout Ohio in 2013.
In 2012, assisted in the investment of roughly $1.1 million in local businesses; $2.4 million invested to date in 19 companies.
|Slow Money Austin hosted its investment showcase and fall pitchfest on Nov. 30 at the nation's first organic event facility, the Barr Mansion.
"Last year was busy for Slow Money Austin. Our Sustainable Texas Investment Club made small loans to Break It Down, a recycling and composting company; Bona Dea Bakery, a gluten-free baking mix company; and Comanche Oaks Farm, run by an organic farmer who in the mid-’80s was the second farmer in Texas to receive organic certification.
Our group of Slow Money volunteers also hosted a couple of events. We held our second pitchfest in June in partnership with the Texas Entrepreneur Network, featuring nine local businesses that spanned a broad range of sustainability and food concerns. We were proud to hear that two of the presenters were able to acquire the funding they were seeking: New Earth Superconscious Living was able to work with a local investor to obtain much-needed capital to introduce its products into new regions within Whole Foods Market. And Margarita’s Tortilla Factory was able to obtain an SBA loan to install the refrigeration needed to increase capacity. Both are wonderful businesses with Central Texas roots and both are led by great entrepreneurs."
|Urban farmers Erin Flynn and Skip Connett of Green Gate Farms hosted a farm tour and potluck dinner with Slow Money Austin.
In November, we held our fall pitchfest in conjunction with our annual fundraiser. We had five presenters this time around, ranging from a third-generation dairy farming family to a Texas bison rancher wanting to open a “ranch to trailer” food trailer to sell his bison. The event turned into an all-day conference with keynotes from our own Woody Tasch and from Lee Valkenaar, co-chairman of the Whole Planet Foundation. We offered educational segments on how the JOBS Act will change the crowdfunding landscape and on the creation and workings of investment clubs. It turned out to be a well-received day of education for all involved.
This momentum continued into 2013 with our first ever Video Pitchfest. Entrepreneurs submitted short videos about themselves, their businesses and their growth plans - similar to what is created for a Kickstarter campaign. We received 25 videos and whittled them down to our six finalists, which got to speak on stage at our event in March at Reclaimed Space in Austin. Their videos were shown at the event and promoted on our social media to raise awareness, interest and capital for their companies. They were also spotlighted at Earth Day Austin 2013, which was a wonderful event. We rounded out the year by going "Whole Hog" with a pig roast and dinner back at the Barr Mansion. The event was great, all had fun and our entrepreneurs had a chance to meet and mingle with customers, supporters and community investors. Our investment club - Sustainable Texas Investment Club - made a $10,000 loan to a local aquaponic farm. Two individual investors made loans to a hyper-local farm to table restaurant - Dai Due - and the urban farm that STIC made their loan to.
Things slowed down a little in 2014, as our local network lost some of its active members. As a result, we were not able to host any major events, but that did not keep us from keeping the funds moving into local businesses. Our investment club made two loans totaling $23,000 and an individual investor pitched in another $3,000. These loans went to a local butcher shop - to purchase a new delivery van - and a local urban farm - to build a new packing shed on their farm. We also had another individual investor put $25,000 into a hyper-local farm-to-table restaurant that we were lucky enough to have open in our city - Dai Due Butcher Shop and Supper Club. 2014 also saw the formation of the Austin Foodshed Investors, a network of accredited investors looking to invest in local, sustainable food system companies. We are targeting a formal launch of the network in the first quarter of 2015, so we are very excited this and hope that it will mobilize larger amounts of capital.
2015 looks bright. We can't wait to get going and help build the group up in Dallas/Fort Worth. Together, we think we will have Slow Money Texas humming along by years end.
Beginning Farmer and Rancher IDA program launched; over $5 million in investments catalyzed; support to more than 40 businesses.
Slow Money Northwest held three investor meetings in 2012, two of those in Portland, and expects to hold four in 2013. The last meeting generated investment discussion of nearly $2 million, with about $600,000 flowing to presenting businesses. To date, we have assisted more than 40 businesses with technical and business development, and are aware of over $5 million in financing resulting from investors attending Slow Money events.
Between January 1 and February 8, Slow Money Northwest launched a Beginning Farmer and Rancher Individual Development Account (IDA) program, secured grant funds to outline a market analysis and investment strategy for a portion of the regional farm-to-institution market, extended our paid contract employee from half to full time, and hired a business research intern. We also are pursuing a communications intern, and have secured office space alongside other social enterprises and impact investor groups in Seattle’s Pioneer Square area.
Needless to say, we expect 2013 to be a year of growth and are taking necessary steps so we can succeed in increasing access to capital and nurturing successful and responsible food and farm businesses.
Slow Money Wisconsin is in early conversations with a local financial institution and a local food retailer, exploring the development of a loan guarantee fund for small regional farmers selling into local markets. Slow Money Wisconsin members have also formed their own investment club and started lending in Stephens Point.
In Switzerland, a Slow Money founding member, in collaboration with eleven others, invested $22,000 in a cheese maker whose dairy is one of the country's first to use solar energy.
|The seed is planted: From left to right, Raphaël Colicci (Slow Food & REEL34 local business club), Bruno Lasnier (CIGALES federation of local social investment clubs), Woody Tasch, Patti Kestin (Slow Money's first founding member) and Raphaël Souchier (co-founder, Slow Money France, REEL34 local business club), enjoy a Slow Food dinner together, September 2009, in Languedoc, France.|
Task force formed; researching new legal and financial tools; first investment project in sight.
A Slow Money task force recently was set up in France. Its members aim at promoting a broad dissemination of the “Sustainable Local Food Systems” vision in this country. We are working on designing and disseminating innovative legal and financial tools to help investors, farmers and local authorities join forces and experiment with new kinds of investment schemes and business models.
A first pilot project already is under way in the Rhône-Alpes region, where several meetings with local farmers and politicians have shown the way toward the creation of an innovative organic farm and community hub on a piece of suburban land. A proposal was prepared in December for local decision-makers to integrate into their urban planning policy, as an alternative to their initial project that focused on the development of another big-box commercial center. If all turns out well, we expect this to lead the way in 2013 to the first French Slow Money group.
For local contact information, e-mail Michael Bartner at michael (at) slowmoney.org
Paul Newman said, "I just happen to think that in life we need to be a little like the farmer who puts back into the soil what he takes out." Recognizing the wisdom of these words, let us begin rebuilding our economy from the ground up, asking:
* What would the world be like if we invested 50% of our assets within 50 miles of where we live?
* What if there were a new generation of companies that gave away 50% of their profits?
* What if there were 50% more organic matter in our soil 50 years from now?