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Jun. 1 2010 - 8:07 pm | 265 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment

Slow Money movement gaining traction

Chickens in the chicken tractor at an organic ...

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Next week is the second annual conference of the Slow Money Alliance. That’s the group recently founded by Woody Tasch, co-founder of the social enterprise angel group Investors’ Circle.   Its aim is ambitious: developing a fundamentally new approach to investment–to capitalism, really.

And, judging from response to the conference, it seems to picking up speed.

Borrowing a lot from the Slow Food movement, the Slow Money philosophy seeks to encourage investment in local food enterprises, an approach explained in Tasch’s book, Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered.  He calls for investors to put some of their money into local sustainable farming. And that, he says, would discourage the unfettered growth -at -any- cost attitude that has created the  current, untenable on-the-precipice of environmental collapse situation we now face, forging, instead, a stronger, healthier, more solid and sustainable economy.

The system to support these efforts would include regional financial hubs where investors and entrepreneurs could meet.  Investors’ returns would be relatively modest, but still healthy, steady–and, well, sustainable.  Revenues from these mostly farming, agricultural ventures also would strengthen local communities and,  at some point, other types of businesses could also get in on the act.

To spread the risk–investing in one little farm could be a recipe for losing all your money–there would be Slow Money funds, with many farms in the portfolio. In fact, Tasch is trying to raise $50 million to $100 million to launch a series of funds, which could bankroll hundreds of businesses.

One thing seems sure about the movement: the timing is right. Tasch’s book came out around the time the economy crashed and disenchantment with traditional approaches to investment started growing.  I’ve heard people say that the local food movement–and, with it, Slow Money–may be the new youth  movement of the decade,  the thing that really galvanizes the current generation of disillusioned young people.

In the meantime, the conference, which meets June 9-11 in Shelburne Farms, Vt, has a series of well-known socially minded speakers, like Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy, and a roster of 22 interesting sustainable small businesses, like Rotokawa Cattle, a Jericho, Vt., farm selling grass-fed beef and Greenling, an Austin, Tx, online service for grocery delivery from local organic farms.

It certainly will provide a first-hand look at the birth of a movement.


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    About Me

    It's just in the past few years that I've become interested in not-only-for-profit startups and small businesses. In fact, I can remember a time when I thought the concept of "enlightened capitalism" was simply an oxymoron. Now, I see the possibilities. Plus, it combines my own political bent with my long-time coverage of small business for such places as the New York Times, Business Week, CNNMoney.com, Portfolio.com, Harvardbusinessonline, and Fortune. Otherwise, I live with my son, a soccer fanatic, my husband, a journalist and avid rower, in Pelham, NY. My daughter, a former varsity wrestler, is away at college, studying art. You can see more of my work at www.annefieldonline.com. Or follow me on Twitter@annearfannearf.

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