In 2009, when I first heard Woody Tasch speak at a Slow Money Institute book signing, I had little idea that seven years later the Slow Money movement and ethos would enable me to chase my dream right into the soil. Our local Slow Money group—the 2Forks Club—is a nonprofit investment club that is reshaping the landscape of capital and local food businesses. The critical mass of minds at each club meeting is a hopeful and energizing harbinger of the future of our local food system.
Founded in 2012, Colorado Soil Systems is a landscape-management company serving the Roaring Fork Valley and the surrounding area. Its mission is to act as a resource for information, education, and assistance in organic landscape-management practices and soil-building processes to grow the local food economy, increase environmental health, and increase the community’s ability to resist disturbances and disruptions in food production. Colorado Soil Systems provides an organic compost tea service and soil-health consulting services.
Compost tea is a liquid solution of beneficial bacteria, fungi, and protozoa that restores health to soils in need. To brew compost tea, we begin with a variety of high-quality composts each containing a diversity of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. We then use a composite tea brewer to extract the microorganisms from the compost. The compost material next is placed into a “tea bag,” and air is pumped in to provide enough energy to knock the microorganisms off the compost and extract them. After extraction, we feed the microorganisms molasses, kelp, and liquid fish to encourage the microbes to multiply. Once the brew is ready, it can be applied as a soil drench, foliar spray, and deep-root application.
In 2016, Colorado Soil Systems received a $15,000 zero-percent loan from the 2Forks Club. This loan allowed us to establish a fruit-tree rootstock nursery to preserve indigenous trees that grow in the valley; purchase irrigation supplies, fencing, and soil amendments; and embark on a vegetable- and flower- production operation. Colorado Soil Systems, in partnership with Erin’s Acres Farm, is set to grow food for 40 CSA shares, two farmers’ markets, and several restaurants located throughout the valley.
The 2Forks Club is unlike any other lender found in the sphere of agriculture. Previously, the banks that Colorado Soil Systems approached for funding would not lend money for things such as purchasing electric fencing or ordering $1,200 of compost for a start-up farmer. Farming and the local community work hand in hand—farmers connect the local community to the earth, and now the missing link of this chain has been found; the people of the farmers’ community close the loop. Relationship-based lending is the future of agriculture.
As the founder of Colorado Soil Systems, I presented my ideas, plans, and pursuits to the 2Forks Club in a room filled with my peers, mentors, and investors—and it was one of the healthiest experiences I’ve had as an entrepreneur. With Slow Money and the 2Forks Club, the lending criterion was based on my preparation, knowledge, character, and vision, and not just a credit score and adjusted gross income.
I am incredibly grateful for what the Slow Money movement has brought into my life and what it is doing for farmers around the county. As local farms and food artisans continue to grow through Slow Money investments, consumers will continue to reconnect with their producers and undoubtedly drive the resurgence of the local food community.