Category Archives: Slow Money Alliance
The annual Slow Money National Gathering is quickly approaching. Taking place in San Francisco from Oct 12 through 14, the meeting will be a combination of dialog and presentations on topics from thought leadership to entrepreneurship, from global vision to local food and music, from deal-doing to relationship building. Be a part of this emerging community that is working together to fix our economy from the ground up… starting with food.
More info on the details and schedule of the gathering, HERE
Help to spread the word via email by filling out a form, HERE
Excerpted from the prologue of “Inquiries Into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered”
© 2008 by Woody Tasch
Organized from “markets down” rather than from “the ground up,” industrial finance is inherently limited in its ability to nurture the long-term health of community and bioregion. These limits are nowhere more apparent than in the food sector, where financial strategies optimizing the efficient use of capital have resulted in cheap chemical-laden food, depleted and eutrophied acquifers, millions of acres of GMO corn, trillions of food miles, widespread degradation of soil fertility, a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico and obesity epidemics side by side with persistent hunger.
“Food,” as the poet Gary Snyder observed, “is the field in which we daily explore our harming of the world.” It is also the field in which we daily explore the boundaries between investing and philanthropy. Using global markets as our guide, we choose commodity production over soil fertility, leaving the vast majority of sustainable agriculture enterprises with little or no access to either investment capital or philanthropic support.
While organics grows at 20 percent per annum on its way past 3 percent of U.S. food-industry revenues, and Whole Foods’ emergence as a Fortune 500 company heralds wider market acceptance of organics, the facts on the ground remain stark. Only 0.5 percent of U.S. farmland is organic. Only 0.1 percent—less than $50 million per annum—of U.S. foundation grants go to sustainable agriculture. Only 0.1 percent of the USDA’s budget supports organics. Roughly the same order of magnitude of venture capital targets organics, and most of that goes to organic brands that have limited relevance to the health of local food systems.
The challenge of re-integrating social and environmental concerns into the financing of food mirrors similar processes underway in broader capital markets and philanthropic arenas.
Socially responsible investing, mission-related and program-related investing by foundations, venture philanthropy, social entrepreneurship, local economies, consumer demand for organics and green products—these are the first stages of a more profound fiduciary realignment. Some of these initiatives remain incremental and ambiguity-laden. Others are indicators of more fundamental, tectonic shifts along the boundaries of for-profit and non-profit, shareholder and stakeholder, global investor and local citizen.
This process of economic and cultural transformation calls for a new prudence, a new urgency, a new vision of capital markets designed to usher in the age of restorative economics, integrating into the theory of fiduciary responsibility and the practice of asset management principles of carrying capacity, care of the commons, sense of place, cultural and biological diversity, and nonviolence.
One of the principal measures of our success will be the extent to which we have catalyzed substantial new capital flows to enterprises that create economic opportunity while respecting, protecting, and promoting the fertility of the soil.