One of the most rewarding aspects of BSW’s efforts and leadership in Impact Investing has been developing relationships with other organizations and people who share our vision and values. Slow Money, whose motto is “Investing as if food, farms, and soil fertility mattered,” is one such pioneering organization. Now headquartered in Boulder, Slow Money was inspired by the Slow Food movement, which began in Italy in response to the creeping proliferation of fast food chains and strives to preserve traditional, regional, and locally produced cuisine. Slow Food was a catalyst for “farm to table” restaurants like Chez Panisse and Boulder favorites like The Kitchen, Black Cat, and Frasca.
Slow Money aims to be a similar catalyst for sustainable food systems by changing the way farmers and food interact with the financial world. Why? Because food is a big, big deal. Quite simply, everybody eats. As such, the means by which we produce, transport, and consume our food have dramatic and far reaching impacts on fuel consumption, pesticide/herbicide use, land use, health, etc. In many ways, if you get food “right,” many other things fall into place. As recognition of food’s central role in our lives, society, and economy grows, so too have alternative and sustainable food systems. Organic food production has increased nearly 20 percent per year for the last two decades. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) operations, like the Boulder area’s Abbondanza Farms and BSW-favorite Frog Belly Farms (which was profiled here), have grown 100-fold from just 60 in 1990 to roughly 6,000 today.
Slow Money is connecting farmers, entrepreneurs, investors, philanthropists and activists, building local and national networks that catalyze the flow of capital to small food enterprises and local food systems. More than $6 million has been invested in 21 food enterprises that presented at the previous three national gatherings. And over the past few years, 16 chapters have been formed around the country, facilitating $15 million of investing in more than 160 food enterprises at the local level.
The 2013 Slow Money National Gathering — which BSW is sponsoring — will be hosted right here in Boulder and features an impressive line-up of speakers, discussions, and activities, including Carlo Petrini (founder of Slow Food), Mary Berry (Wendell Berry’s daughter), Wes Jackson (MacArthur Fellow and founder of The Land Institute), Winona LaDuke (renowned activist and executive director of Honor the Earth), Jeff Clements (author of Corporations Are Not People), Joan Gussow (author of This Organic Life), and Gary Nabhan (MacArthur Fellow and prolific author, often called “the father of the local food movement”) — as well as a $50,000 prize for the Slow Money entrepreneur of the year. Complete event details are available here. Several BSW folks will be participating and attending — and we look forward to connecting with clients, colleagues, and friends at the event! Hope to see you there!
-David Wolf, Chief Investment Officer