Earthworm Economics

The founder of the Slow Money Alliance speaks out for investment in entrepreneurship, conservation, and local providers of food.

By Woody Tasch

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The Slow Money Alliance  encourages and facilitates investment in CSAs, organic food distributors, farm-to-table restaurants, and other food sources.More than 20,000 people have gone online to register their support for the Slow Money Principles (slowmoney.org/principles) and their belief in locally grown food, community investment, and a new era of “nurture capital.” The word is spreading, buoyed by Slow Money Alliance success stories from around the country:

Funds provided by New York City investors allowed Fleisher’s Grass-Fed & Organic Meats to open a second retail location in a pedestrian-friendly commercial strip in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn. Run by Josh and Jessica Applestone, the butcher shop offers antibiotic- and hormone-free meats from animals raised on a grass-based diet. The farms that supply Fleisher’s are all within 100 miles of the couple’s Kingston store in New York’s Hudson Valley. With the 2011 opening of the Brooklyn location, Fleisher’s has returned to its roots: Josh’s grandfather founded the business in Brooklyn in 1901.

Justin and Danielle Leszcz, owners of YellowTree Farm, were growing pesticide-free foods on a cramped 1⁄10 acre of land in suburban St. Louis. In early 2011, the couple presented their expansion plans to potential investors at a local Slow Money gathering. Two investors provided a loan of $6,000 at 2 percent interest—funds that have allowed YellowTree Farm to rent 11/2 acres of farmland, start a CSA program, increase their sales to local restaurants, and rent a booth at a farmers’ market. In the program’s first year, the CSA memberships sold out in 24 hours.

In a project led by Slow Money member Narendra Varma, Community by Design purchased 58 acres near Portland, Oregon, to be used as a small-farm incubator. Varma plans to bring several small organic farming businesses to the property, where they will share infrastructure and resources such as barns, equipment, a greenhouse, a commercial kitchen, and sales and marketing staff.

Each investment in a local food producer is a small step toward fixing our economy from the ground up—an incremental step in the rewarding and hopeful process of bringing money back down to earth. —Woody Tasch

Woody Tasch is the founder and chairman of Slow Money and author of Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms and Fertility Mattered (Chelsea Green, 2010).

Illustration by Paul Blow
Photo by Jennifer Silverberg

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