SLOW MONEY 2014 was our largest event to date, with over 850 attendees from 46 states, Canada and France, and 6,000 watching via live stream. Highlights included the successful completion of our first BEETCOIN campaign, the release of our first State of the Sector Report, and a series of Town Hall Meetings and entrepreneur group conversations, with active audience participation throughout. The program featured a Who’s Who of leaders in local food systems and finance, promoting an integral approach to thinking and doing that has become the hallmark of Slow Money gatherings.
Welcoming remarks were offered by Slow Money director Gary Nabhan, who observed: “This is a critical moment. Within the next two decades, more than half of America’s farm and ranch lands will be transferred. We’re talking about 400 million acres of food-producing lands, and some 50 million of these acres are at risk of going out of food production.”
“Something extraordinarily beautiful and powerful is at work here. I laughed. I cried. I really did. Many times. On behalf of all the pollinators and the fertility builders, farmers and food entrepreneurs, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.” —GARY NABHAN
State of the Sector Report
A first at this year’s event was the release of Slow Money’s State of the Sector Report, documenting investing over the past five years in small food enterprises via Slow Money’s network and 42 surveyed investment funds, foundations, family offices and angel investors. The report analyzes $293 million of investments in 968 deals from 2009 to 2013.
|BEETCOIN Winners Bani Hines Hudson (New Roots in Louisville, KY); Suzan Erem (Sustainable Iowa Land Trust in West Branch, IA); Rosanna Bauman and her mother (Bauman’s Cedar Valley Farms in Garnett, KS); and Woody Tasch (chairman and founder, Slow Money)|
Another first at Slow Money 2014 was our BEETCOIN campaign. The campaign raised $75,032 from 373 individuals, with Slow Money topping off the campaign at an even $100,000. Chosen by popular vote of event attendees and BEETCOIN holders, Bauman’s Cedar Valley Farms from Garnett, Kansas, a family operation that grows GMO-free grains, pastured poultry, eggs, and beef on a highly diversified farm, was awarded first place and received $60,000. Sustainable Iowa Land Trust (SILT), dedicated to preserving Iowa farmland in perpetuity, shared second place with Louisville’s own New Roots, a nonprofit organization collaborating with local farmers to increase urban access to healthy food. Each second-place winner received $20,000. Bauman’s received its funding in the form of a 0-percent, three-year loan. SILT and New Roots funding was structured as recoverable grants.
“For several years, I’ve been putting a significant portion of my time, love and assets to work in food and farming, inspired by the vision of Slow Money. At this year’s event, I could sense the shift. We are moving from early adopters to a broader movement and the energy is palpable. I’m gratified to see how my actions are part of a coherent whole and this gives me hope.” —NARENDRA VARMA, ANGEL INVESTOR AND FOUNDER OF OUR TABLE COOPERATIVE
|Left: Keynote speaker Douglas Gayeton, co-founder of The Lexicon of Sustainability: “The food that we buy comes from people who, in most cases, we don’t know and the ingredients in that food are of unknown origin.” Right: Farmer and author Joel Salatin presenting ten “benchmarks of truth” of sustainable farming. (And, yes, he did mention the pigness of the pig.)|
Opening keynotes by Douglas Gayeton and Joel Salatin set high bars—and then leapt over them—on the path to new language, new conversation, new ways of thinking about food, farming, entrepreneurship and sustainability.
Slow Money founder Woody Tasch carried the theme of language forward. “These are questions about the relationship between finance and culture, between money and the soil, between the local and the fiduciary. This is a new conversation about investing in the 21st century,” Tasch said. “We can call it slow money. We can call it conscientious investing. We can call it nurture capital. It’s fine that we use many different terms because what we are after is authentic public conversation and diversity—not just arithmetic diversification, but actual ecological, economic, and cultural diversity.”
|Slow Money founder Woody Tasch: “At some point, the pursuit of happiness must become the pursuit of non-cheapened food.”
|Left: Woody Tasch, Wendell Berry, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (Maine), and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer discuss the farmers’ need for allies in local government.
|Right: Mary Berry, executive director of the Berry Center, cautioning that “to deal correctly with the problems, we must first be content, or try to be, with the notion of small solutions and with the apparent slowness of our work.”
Wendell Berry suggested that, when faced with government policies that create barriers for local agriculture, we must “go to work locally, where people understand and live among the problems.” “The destructiveness of industrial agriculture is directly related to the destruction of rural communities,” Berry continued. “Replacing the large machines and toxic chemicals with competent people is not something that can happen overnight, but it needs to be started and the people here have started it.”
|Woody Tasch and Wendell Berry discussing the concept of “shared risk” during the opening Town Hall Meeting.
|Patrick Holden, founding director of the Sustainable Food Trust, likened the farm to a cell of the food system, commenting that “if we get the cell healthy, the food system as a whole will be healthy.” With Holden is Judy Wicks, co-founder of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies.
Narendra Varma, founder of Our Table Cooperative, shared a vision for a culture based on “the relationship between you and the plants and animals you eat, the land they grow on, and the people who coax them from the earth,” while Elizabeth Candelario, co-director of Demeter, drew a parallel between healing land and healing people.
Amy Domini, founder and CEO of Domini Social Investments; Catherine Gill, senior vice president of Root Capital; Tim Storrow, executive director of Castanea Foundation; and, Matt Patsky, CEO of Trillium Asset Management, addressed the power of finance as a tool for social change, with the growing awareness of food and agriculture as drivers. Moderator Don Shaffer, CEO of RSF Social Finance, described the challenges and opportunities of integrating relationships and transactions
|Amy Domini (Founder of Domini Social Investments) and Don Shaffer (President & CEO, RSF Social Finance)
|Left: Vandana Shiva and Sam May (Slow Money Maine)
|Right: Ray Moncrief, COO of Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation, discusses strategies for scaling local investing by community development financial institutions. Other panelists (left to right) are: Carrie Van Winkle (investment advisor, Natural Investments, LLC), Doug Schlosnagle (CEO, United Citizens Bank and Trust), and Leslie Christian (investment advisor).
Breakout sessions explored GMOs; heirloom seeds; economic justice for farmers, low-income populations, and voters; collaboration opportunities among NGOs; the role of chefs in promoting sustainable agriculture and health; the workings of Slow Money investment clubs; and how the Internet can be used to support Slow Money work.
Slow Money Northern California co-leader Marco Vangelisti made a powerful case for “the need to divest from economic and financial systems that are pushing us toward disaster.” Showing the before and after photos of a forest decimated by an economy that does not know how to value it, Vangelisti urged fellow investors to pay attention to how their portfolios are used. “The investments we make today are not happening on a separate planet,” he said. “We need to mobilize 100 percent of our financial resources to build the world we want to live in.”
“These were truly remarkable proceedings. Life-changing, really. This event was so compelling, so inspiring, so empowering, and yet so down-to-earth that it was impossible to walk away from Louisville unchanged. l came home all the more convinced that ‘bringing money back down to earth’ is not just a catchy phrase, but a very real, practical and brilliant way to change the world—starting close to home. A generation from now, I think we are going to look back on these first Slow Money events as seminal.” —NANCY THELLMAN, COUNTY COMMISSIONER, DOUGLAS COUNTY, KS
|Left: Greg Steltenpohl, founder of Odwalla; Right: Glynn Lloyd, Urban Farming Institute of Boston
Severine von Tscharner Fleming, co-founder of Agrarian Trust and director of Greenhorns, advocated for supporting the next generation of famers in America.
Vandana Shiva addressed the issue of GMOs and the seed supply. “Local food supply needs local seed supply. It needs creation of seed banks as a commons. The challenge of food is the challenge of food democracy,” she continued, “and we need to reclaim our Earth citizenship with deep consciousness and compassion.”
Greg Steltenpohl, founder of Odwalla, kicked off Day Two by encouraging investors and entrepreneurs to “find opportunities in surprising places,” noting that the “transition from cultures of extraction to cultures of ecology is through conversation, not polemic.”
Entrepreneur conversations were divided into four groups—land, processing and distribution, livestock, and urban agriculture. A total of 21 entrepreneurs shared their stories. Businesses ranged from a California pasta maker who uses only locally grown organic wheat, to a Kentucky sheep farm, to a 150-year-old Georgia farm that transformed itself into a leader in sustainable agricultural practices, to a sprouted flour company from Alabama, to an urban farming NGO in Chicago.
|Land Panel (left to right): Judith Schwartz, moderator (Author, Cows Save the Planet); Will Harris (White Oak Pastures in Bluffton, GA); Stefanie Bourcier (Farm Fuel in Watsonville, CA); Suzan Erem (Sustainable Iowa Land Trust in West Branch, IA); and Narendra Varma (Our Table Cooperative in Sherwood, OR). Not pictured: John-Paul Maxfield (Waste Farmers in Denver, CO)|
|Processing and Distribution Panel (left to right): Dawn McGee, moderator (CEO, Good Works Ventures); Bob Klein (Community Grains in Oakland, CA); Shelly Herman (Irv & Shelly’s Fresh Picks in Chicago, IL); Peggy Sutton (To Your Health Sprouted Flour Company in Fitzpatrick, AL); Meghan Dear (Localize in Edmonton, Canada); Brandon Jaeger (Shagbark Seed & Mill in Athens, OH); and Mike Higgins (Custom Food Solutions in Louisville, KY|
|Livestock Panel (left to right): Jim Richardson (Richardson Farms in Austin, TX); Jonathan Hunter (Underground Meats in Madison, WI); Chris Bailey (Vermont Smoke and Cure in Hinesburg, VT), Jim Mansfield (Four Hills Farm in Salvisa, KY); and Rosanna Bauman (Bauman’s Cedar Valley Farms in Garnett, KS). Not pictured: Paul Dolan, moderator (Dolan Family Ranches in Healdsburg, CA)|
|Urban Agriculture Panel (left to right): Michael Brownlee, moderator (co-founder, Local Food Shift Group in Boulder, CO); Karyn Moskowitz (New Roots in Louisville, KY); Jake Davis (Root Cellar Grocer in Columbia, MO); Ryan Doan (Urban Greens in Cincinnati, OH); Glynn Lloyd (Urban Farming Institute of Boston in Boston, MA); and Harry Rhodes (Growing Home in Chicago, IL)|
As the gathering approached its conclusion, David Orr, relaying his work supporting sustainable development in the Lake Erie Crescent, argued that the task of rebuilding the economy begins locally: “Use the momentum of the movement and interest in local food to channel resources and funding by large institutions into building up local systems.”
Woody Tasch’s closing remarks revolved around a passage from his pamphlet “Commons nth: Common Sense For A Post Wall Street World,” highlighting Wendell Berry’s call for a new kind of imagination and E.F. Schumacher’s call for meta-economics: “It’s going to take imagination to bring down the Iron Curtain between investing and philanthropy.”
The proceedings were brought to a close by a Town Hall conversation about the broader slow movement, featuring Tasch; executive director of Slow Food USA Richard McCarthy; vice president of Slow Food Italy Cinzia Scaffidi; and Slow Church co-author John Pattison. McCarthy reflected on the role of faith in the principles underlying Slow Food, highlighting values of growing community, respecting the earth, and finding balance. Pattison observed, “McDonaldization has proven to be just as alluring to our churches and our communities of faith as it has to other sectors of our society.” Scaffidi reflected on our relationship to money, nature and time: “We keep talking about saving money and saving time, instead of investing money and investing time. We have to stop thinking about accumulating and start thinking about sharing. Sustainability requires new models.”
|“Slow What?” Panel (left to right): Woody Tasch; Richard McCarthy (executive director of Slow Food USA); Cinzia Scaffidi (vice president of Slow Food Italy); and John Pattison (co-author, Slow Church)
Bringing together a broad range of stakeholders—from fiduciaries and sophisticated angel investors to non-accredited investors, crowdfunders and community members—is integral to the manner in which Slow Money is holding the space for nuanced, authentic public conversations about food, investing and culture. Such conversations have proven catalytic in the five years since our first national gathering in 2009, and these events have grown robustly. These national gatherings have proven a vital complement to the growing family of local Slow Money networks and investment clubs.
Always harkening to Wendell Berry’s famous distrust of movements as we proceed, we look forward to continuously enhancing the impact of our national gatherings as a tool for promoting the kind of place-based, relationship-based investing that is central to Slow Money as “the CSA of investing.”
|Toussaint Shaak Rose, a student in the Berry Farming and Ecological Agrarianism Program at St. Catharine College.
As we conclude this event write-up, we want to once again congratulate not only the three BEETCOIN winners, but also recognize the extraordinary leadership of all 21 of the presenting food entrepreneurs, as we continue to work together building local food systems and increasing the flow of capital in support of soil fertility, diversity and sense of place.
$60,000, Bauman’s Cedar Valley Farms (Garnett, KS)
$20,000, Sustainable Iowa Land Trust (West Branch, IA)
$20,000, New Roots (Louisville, KY)