Slow Money: Investing as if food, farms and fertility mattered.

May 10, 2010

A million Americans

investing 1% of their assets in

local food systems…

within a decade.

I was introduced to the Slow Money initiative at the Real Food Challenge training back in February.  Since then I’ve read the founder’s book: Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money-Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered.  I’ve been hearing a lot about the Slow Money National Gathering, an educational weekend at Shelburne Farms in Vermont.

Meet thought leaders and change agents from
around the country who are joining in this exciting
project: designing capital markets that go beyond
extraction and consumption all the way to
preservation and restoration…
starting with food and soil fertility.

It is no mistake that Slow Money sounds a whole lot like Slow Food. The idea is to invest in your local food economy…really, to put your money where your mouth is. Investing in local food economies is buying into a  future of fertility, sustainable farming practices, and community engagement. Like Slow Food, Slow Money advocates for personable food systems and resists this fast-paced, mostly destructive and divided market economy.  Slow Money moves past “growth at any cost” and asks the critical questions: Which economies should grow? What types of businesses should be fostered? And maybe more importantly, which should not? And also: How can we create an economy that is built upon the well-being of its members and their natural environment?

Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money
presents the path for bringing money back down to earth-
philosophically, strategically, and pragmatically-
and with an entrepreneurial spirit that is informed
by decades of work by the thousands of CEOs,
investors, grant makers, food producers, and consumers
who are seeding the restorative economy.

In his book, Woody Tasch challenges modern investment techniques of wealth now, philanthropy later.  Instead of investing in destructive, but profitable ventures, invest in local initiatives.  These local initiatives certainly won’t make as much money as investing in multinational or hugely popular businesses, but that is kind of the point.  Investing in huge companies with illusive practises distances investors from their money.  This often leads to investments that actually contribute to the problems they are intended to make money in order to ameliorate.  Tasch brings up the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is the largest in the world.  While one of its charitable missions is to improve health in Africa, the foundation invests in Nigerian oil exploration, a practice which pollutes local environments.

Tasch offers mission-related investing as an alternative.  Although mission-relating investing doesn’t generate as much money as conventional investing, less money has to be invested, and no money is needed to off-set damage if the venture is a success.  On top of that, investors can begin to really invest in relationships and communities. What I mean by invest is to really have a stake in something, beyond just monetary goals. As you can see by reading about the National Gathering, the Slow Money idea is much less about money than it is about creating a new capitalist system, one in which money truly has value.

Our current system is one of disconnect and, ultimately, of violence. This violence is the result of, in economic parlance, externalities. Slow Money envisions fiscal responsibility, both socially and environmently.  Woody Tasch believes that the economy can grow, even if “externalities” are factored in.  This economy would be down to earth indeed.


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