Jeff, before we begin, I want to thank you for the images of the jars of water, one with soil rich in organic matter and one with the dissolved murkiness of soil that is deficient in carbon. Ever since you showed those images during a public talk a decade or so ago, the comparison has stuck with me.
After more than 30 years in business, the SLO Natural Foods Co-op in San Luis Obispo, California, probably would not have continued to survive without the help of Slow Money SLO. Inspired by a desire to save the community’s beloved store, a group of investors started Slow Money SLO and in 2013 made $87,000 in peer-to-peer loans to help the co-op move from a tiny, rustic space to a much larger building nearby.
Our food system’s successes and spectacular failures account for nearly one trillion dollars of US GDP, yet the media spotlight is usually reserved for the sexier tech and financial sectors. I hear regularly about growing populations, water shortages and rapidly changing international trade policies, and still, food and its ancillary industries seem to be taken as a given in the American economic schema.
For many years, agriculture—or the production of food and fiber—has resulted in the massive degradation of billions of acres of land worldwide. Now, the same industry finally has been acknowledged as having the unique ability to sequester carbon through the improvement of soils.
We live in a world in which the complicated has been made simple and the simple has been made complicated. Pushing the power button on your computer, simple. Having an authentic conversation with your neighbor, complicated. Buying a bag of potato chips, simple. Growing potatoes in your front yard, complicated.
Henry David Thoreau lived 200 years ago, but his influence continues, inspiring the likes of Tolstoy, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., E.F. Schumacher, Wendell Berry, and Bill McKibben, to name an illustrious few.
John-Paul founded Waste Farmers with $9,000 and a belief that idealism and capitalism can coexist. Waste Farmers has evolved into an innovator respected by leaders in the global community for developing simple solutions to the complex problems of modern agriculture and food security.
We can’t all be Noam Chomsky or Ayn Rand or Wendell Berry or Bingo Pajama,¹ but that doesn’t mean each and every one of us can’t get the hint. We need a new story. Maybe even a new myth. We need to rediscover imagination.
Some sights in the neighborhood were so common that I had stopped noticing them; but then one day they came into view. While driving down Harold Street on the way to my cousin’s house, I noticed a vacant lot on my left and then, just a block down, I saw two large vacant lots on my right.
One of the most difficult things I’ve experienced about working within the Slow Money community is the uncertainty that comes with trying to move in a fundamentally new direction.