In recession-economy America, there’s no shortage of good ideas. Waves of creative and capable folks have been liberated from their desk jobs — by choice or by force — and are on the lookout for entrepreneurial ways to reconnect with the soil.
If you follow these good ingredients off the start-up farms they’re grown on, you find another cadre of innovators: chefs and culinary creatives like those profiled in Tuesday’s Times article, “Their Future, Made by Hand.”
The engines of creativity are revved up, but where’s the gas (er, biodiesel) to power them? In order for the sustainable food movement to scale up, it’s capital that’s needed next.
Enter Slow Money, the book–now movement–founded by Investors’ Circle’s longtime chairman, Woody Tasch.
Tasch and company are hosting the Slow Money Alliance’s second national gathering June 9-11 at Shelburne Farms, Vermont. (Register here.) The meeting will bring together visionaries like four-season farmer Eliot Coleman, Eaarth author Bill McKibben, and Stonyfield CEO Gary Hirshberg for frank and forward-looking discussions about how to grow sustainable food businesses by opening the faucet of what Tasch calls “nurture capital.”
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You don’t have to have a small fortune or a big idea to get involved: Slow Money is planning to riff on Slow Food’s “convivia” model, building local networks of people who can help — in large and tiny ways — to get new food businesses off the ground.
If you’re eager to dig in now and make your money make a difference, here’s two ideas and a shameless plug:
1. Follow Arianna Huffington’s lead and move your money. No matter how puny your savings may be, your bank has reinvested those deposits behind your back, and likely in segments of the conventional economy that don’t reflect your values. I’ve changed my interest-bearing mattress of choice to ShoreBank Pacific, where I know my (meager) piggy bank is financing sustainable ag, not deep-sea drilling.
2. Follow Organic Valley’s investor page for opportunities to buy an ownership stake in this farmer-driven, values-driven cooperative. They periodically open up to outside shareholders, and tending common stock is easier than livestock anyway.
3. Now for the shameless plug. If you’re looking for a great way to leverage your money and do something good in sustainable food, my collaborator Ian Cheney and I have until June 10 to raise the financing we need to finish our humble Truck Farm film. Take a moment to donate to our Kickstarter campaign and though you’ll earn only emotional rewards on your investment (well, a cool Truck Farm trucker hat and DVD are decent dividends), you can take pride in knowing you inspired viewers far away to plant a garden… or to start a tasty business.
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Curt Ellis grew up in Oregon and found his passion for food and agriculture at The Mountain School and Yale, then moved to Iowa to investigate the role of subsidized commodities in the American obesity epidemic. The film he co-created there, King Corn, produced with Ian Cheney and Aaron Woolf, received a national theatrical release and PBS broadcast, helped drive policy discussion around the Farm Bill, and earned a George Foster Peabody Award. Under a Food and Community Fellowship with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Ellis helped launch the mobile garden project Truck Farm and directed Big River, a sequel to King Corn, for Discovery's Planet Green. Ellis is a Draper Richards Kaplan Social Entrepreneur, a Claneil Foundation Emerging Leader and a recipient of the Heinz Award. He has appeared on ABC, CBS, NBC and NPR, is a frequent speaker on college campuses, and works as co-founder and Executive Director of the national service organization FoodCorps. Read more >
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