The Chinese New Year is rolling around in February, ushering in the Year of the Snake. It seems only right for us, then, to call 2013, the year in which we push forward with the Soil Trust, the Year of the Earthworm. Here’s how a bunch of us earthworms are getting the year off to a great start.
We raised approximately $23,833 for the Soil Trust from 97 donors during the last weekend of 2012. Mamma Chia, the organic beverage company that is donating 1 percent of its 2012 revenues to Slow Money, is matching these donations. In October, during our first test mailing on the Trust, we raised $12,660 from 126 contributors. And previously, we had received seed funding for the Soil Trust from a few larger donors.
The Soil Trust will be ready to make its first investment — a major milestone — at our upcoming national gathering in April. We’ll have more to share with you on this in the lead-up to the event.
Pushing forward on the Soil Trust in 2013 will be further enhanced by two important additions. First is a new Slow Money staff member, Jake Bornstein, who joined us this month and whose primary responsibility is the Soil Trust. Jake brings an outstanding academic record plus three years working for one of the world’s largest hedge funds, which he left to study permaculture, seeking ways to link his interest in markets to his interest in the soil. (A Slow Money resume if ever I’ve seen one.) Second, we’ve hired Environmental Communications Associates, a Boulder-based marketing firm with decades of experience working on for-profit and nonprofit environmental initiatives, to assist us with Soil Trust messaging and marketing strategy.
Meanwhile, as the Year of the Earthworm unfolds, let’s take a glimpse at what’s going on in the food system in the Year of the Snake, offering a global reminder of why these small steps forward can be so important.
Consider, as an example, China’s Modern Dairy Holdings. The company, which commenced operations in 2005, has 20 industrial farms with a total of 159,000 head of cattle. Here’s how the Wall Street Journal describes one of its facilities:
“The result is farms like Modern Dairy’s Feidong facility, a sprawling set of buildings that from the outside looks more like an electronics factory than a farm. Cows live in football-field-size covered sheds, rarely venture outdoors and are milked three times a day on German-made, bovine merry-go-rounds, with automated pumps that measure each cow’s milk flow by the second and send that data to central computers.”
The company’s website states, “We are among the first companies in China to adopt a large-scale industrialized free-stall dairy farming business model. All of our standardized dairy farms are designed and constructed with a capacity of raising up to 10,000 dairy cows per farm.”
Such standardization and control is one response to food safety concerns. Remember, in 2008 melamine contamination in Chinese milk caused widespread health problems. But while we take steps to clean up the global, monoculture-driven food system, we also need to take steps to restore and preserve local, diversity-enhancing food systems.
In addition to the most efficient and benign technologies and manufacturing systems, we need snakes, earthworms, cows that graze, poop that makes it back to the soil, farms that are not factories, farmers who spend more time in fields than on computers, consumers who spend more time with farmers, and investors who, intuiting the connection between the ultra-pasteurized and the ultra-fiduciarized, spend more time sinking their hands into the soil of the restorative economy.
Profits are like poop.
In Soil We Trust.