SOIL – Slow Opportunities for Investing Locally
by Woody Tasch, founder, Slow Money
I often refer to Slow Money as “the CSA of investing.” As with community-supported agriculture, our efforts revolve around informal, direct relationships and shared risk. Slow Money funding is flowing in a variety of ways in dozens of communities across the United States (and a few in Canada and France) — peer-to-peer lending, investment clubs, angel networks and pitch fests at public events large and small.
This year, we’re launching Slow Opportunities for Investing Locally—SOIL, a non-profit investment club, in the Boulder, CO area (as well as holding the SOIL 2017 Conference this October).
This isn’t investing in the traditional sense. We’re using charitable donations and 0% loans to fund the next generation of diversified, organic farms and the small food enterprises that bring their produce to the local market. We’re building a permanent, member-controlled funding resource. This is investing that leaves the returns in, for the benefit of future generations.
There are many social and environmental reasons why we are doing this. Climate Change. Nutrition. Community. There are also financial reasons. If we are going to do what needs to be done in the soil, then we are going to need to put aside some of our money in new ways.
This is what has been driving Slow Money activities around the country. Since 2010, more than $57 million has flowed through our networks to 632 small food enterprises: Cheese makers, artisan bakers, heirloom seed companies, compost purveyors, small diversified organic farms (F.A.R.M.s,* too), grass-fed beef producers, goat dairies, yogurt companies, farm-to-table restaurants, probiotic pickleteers, community kitchens, regional grain mills, local distributors, inner city cooperatives and more.
Here in Colorado, hundreds of individuals have attended regional events or committed capital to Slow Money projects, including four investment clubs, resulting in the flow of $3.3 million to 36 local food deals. In 2015, we started our first non-profit investment club, 2Forks Club in Carbondale, CO, and based on its success, we are now starting SOIL on Colorado’s Front Range.
* F.A.R.M., in Boone, NC, is a café that allows customers to pay whatever they can afford: Food for All Regardless of Means. There is a network of such “one world cafes” around the country, some 70 or so strong. Denver’s SAME Café (So All May Eat) is one. We haven’t yet funded one of these cafés, but I hope we will soon.
Here's How it Works
You become a member of SOIL with a tax-deductible donation of $100 or more. Then, members make 0% loans to local farmers and food entrepreneurs, by majority vote—one member, one vote, no matter what the size of your donation. When loans are repaid, funds are recycled into new loans.
We’ve been utilizing this model for the past two years over in the Roaring Fork Valley, where 33 individuals have contributed a total of $206,000, in amounts ranging from $100 to $80,000, to the 2Forks Club (named for the Roaring Fork River and the north fork of the Gunnison River). Seven loans have been made to date, with more in the pipeline.
“I’ve been farming for 20 years,” says 2Forks member Brook Le Van, “And I’ve never seen anything this heartening in the way it connects people and supports the local food system. Especially in the current climate, with so much divisiveness and uncertainty, this is just what we all need.”
Here in Boulder, SOIL is starting off with $75,000 from a dozen founding members. I am joined on our launch committee by Brian Coppom (Executive Director, Boulder County Farmers’ Market) and Amy Divine (Member, Women Donors Network). Helping us is a Kitchen Cabinet that includes a healthy handful of local folks with experience in food and finance. We’d like to think that given population and geographical factors on the Front Range, we’ll be able to achieve more scale than our sister group in the mountains,and that, over time, if enough of us keep at it, we can grow SOIL into a significant, community resource for funding local food systems, in Boulder and beyond.
Read the rest of Woody's Blog post here- http://www.greenmoneyjournal.com/june-2017/soil-fake-news-and-real-food/