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Slow Money Gathering 2013

If you are familiar with the legendary Carlo Petrini who started the Slow Food Movement, to address the potential loss of food culture in Italy, you may understand the concept behind Slow Money.  The 4th Slow Money Gathering was recently held in Boulder, Colorado to address the fracture between our investment strategies and our local food economies.  The founder of Slow Money, Woody Tasch, has a tag line that reads “investing as if food, fertility and farms matter.” The slow part of this is reminding investors that their dollars may be better invested not with unlimited growth in mind but where the investment can do the most good (while remembering food, fertility and farms).  So, my experience at this 2-day conference reinforces many of the concepts that are thematic to Food and Body Politic, which I will be teaching again fall semester.

The underlying questions: When did we stop being accountable to one another over the lure of wealth?  When did food become a commodity that devalues nutrition?  Why does science exploit nature for profit? How is the industrial food system controlling our minds, wellness and our local economies-among other things?

The Gathering was actually able to answer these questions as a host of “reformed” financial experts, farmers, food entrepreneurs and others presented real alternatives for slow financial growth and to-scale business that supports “food, fertility and farms”.  The Founding members reject Venture Capitalism in place of Nurture Capitalism putting the focus on small food infrastructures.  For example, the Entrepreneurial Showcase this year highlighted 25 small food enterprises that Slow Money sees as the solution to repairing the infrastructure of our local food economies.  Hayden Mills is bringing old grains back into the market place which also allows for farms to grow the grains and have a secure buyer after harvest; Coyote Creek Organic Feed Mill is a source for livestock feed in Texas where the options for organic feed had previously been zero!  Jerry Cunningham from Coyote Creek remarked that in the 1970’s Earl Butts, then Secretary of Agricultural, said, “Get big or get out.”  Jerry Cunningham, farmer, says, “Get small and welcome back home.”

Preserve Sonoma turns fresh foods into shelf stable ones for that area’s farms so nothing goes to waste and shelf stable product is available from local sources year round. Iroquois Valley Farms allows investors to pool their monies for land preservation that can be used for food related endeavors.

A thought popped into my mind a while back that I noted on my desk at home: dependency reinforces accountability.  Slow Money reminds the investor that this should be a part of one’s fiduciary responsibility.  Woody Tasch reminded us all that perhaps we should think about it more as our Food-is-iary responsibility. It is not a matter of limiting growth; it is a matter of distributing it more sustainably and equally in our own communities.  So, when students ask me how we effect change if we choose to reject the industrial food model, we have a new model among Slow Money entrepreneurs and the movements guiding principles that begins with “We must bring money back down to earth.”  See the est of the guiding principles at www.slowmoney.org.

~Jeneen Wiche, May 2013