The Slow Money movement is about transitioning from an economy based on extraction and consumption to an economy based on conservation and renewal. It is about investing close to home and seeing your dollars make tangible change in your community. Following on the heels of the international Slow Food movement, which was begun by Italians to defend regional traditions, good food, gastronomic pleasure and a slow pace of life, Slow Money is based on the premise that we should be investing in the future of our food, i.e., the soil, the farms and the food businesses populating our local food systems.
We know what it looks like when households invest in a farm for a year, through a Community Supported Agriculture program: Farmers make a living, they get cash up front in the spring; consumers get a weekly box of food throughout the season and assume some of the risk. What would it look like if some of us took the CSA concept a bit further? Imagine several community members giving farmers small loans of $2,000 to $5,000 toward that new greenhouse or tractor. Maybe the loan is repaid in cash, maybe in food. Obviously you are not going to grow your kids’ college fund in this way, but if we all planted a mere 1 percent of our savings where we live, the collective investment would be extraordinary.
The Slow Money principles (from slowmoney.org):
• We must bring money back down to earth.
• There is such a thing as money that is too fast, companies that are too big, finance that is too complex. Therefore, we must slow our money down — not all of it, of course, but enough to matter.
• The 20th century was the era of buy low/sell high and wealth now/philanthropy later — what one venture capitalist called “the largest legal accumulation of wealth in history.” The 21st century will be the era of nurture capital, built around principles of carrying capacity, care of the commons, sense of place and nonviolence.
• We must learn to invest as if food, farms and fertility mattered. We must connect investors to the places where they live, creating vital relationships and new sources of capital for small food enterprises.
• Let us celebrate the new generation of entrepreneurs, consumers and investors who are showing the way from making a killing to making a living.
• Paul Newman said, “I just happen to think that in life we need to be a little like the farmer who puts back into the soil what he takes out.” Recognizing the wisdom of these words, let us begin rebuilding our economy from the ground up.
Slow Money founder Woody Tasch spoke at UO in February 2013 and the crowd sat up and listened. Tasch is the author of Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered. He spent another day in Eugene, meeting with a group of farmers, food business owners and interested investors. The Slow Money South Willamette Valley chapter emerged from this event.
Community member Erin Ely attended the national Slow Money conference in Boulder that spring and came back with information about different models for local investing. The group decided to keep it simple and stick with the peer-to-peer lending for starters. Interested investors were brought together with farmers and other food business owners looking for capital, and the lending details were worked out between individuals. In the past year and a half, six peer-to-peer loans totaling $98,000 have been made to two farms and four food businesses.
Now another community investment model is on the horizon. Just this month a ruling was passed by state regulators that will allow Oregonians to easily invest in and earn a return from Oregon businesses that create jobs and contribute to their own communities. Referred to as Community Public Offering, this program allows businesses in the state to raise up to $250,000 in capital from their fellow Oregonians. Businesses must first meet certain criteria to help assure investors that they are a legitimate Oregon enterprise. Individual investors must be Oregon residents and can invest up to $2,500 in any one offering.
Amy Pearl, executive director of Hatch Innovation in Portland, says, “If Oregonians brought back home just 1 percent of the savings they have in Wall Street and invested those dollars in Oregon businesses, we could have nearly a billion dollar infusion of investment in the state’s economy.” Pearl was instrumental in drafting the new rules and working with state regulators to bring the concept of community capital to Oregon.
Learn more about Community Public Offering at a launch event from 6 to 9 pm Thursday, Jan. 29, at Red Wagon Creamery, 55 W. Broadway. Read more at slowmoneyswv.org. — Lynne Fessenden