Slow Money

“Cha-Ching!” That was the sound of your money quickly vanishing into a register at a McDonalds, Arby’s or Wendy’s. You can probably correctly guess that your physical dollars are taken from that register after closing time and then deposited into a bank, or, simply counted to be added to a total and then put back into that very register to be used as change the next day. Either way, the transaction happens way too fast to give you enough time to think about where your dollars will end up metaphorically.

When you slow down to think about it, you may ask yourself: What percentage of my dollar…pays for employees’ wages? Is given out as bonuses? Is used for advertising? Is paid to Lobbyists? Is given to Special Interest groups? Is given to distributors for their service? Is paid out to farmers for their labor and their products?

You may finally ask yourself: What exactly did I just contribute to?

 If you’re starting to feel blood rush to your head and become anxious, it’s because you have given these questions too much thought. It’s okay. Just take a deep breath and slow down your heart, your mind, your food and your money. 

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Slow Money, its name derived from the Slow Food movement, is aimed at organizing investors and donors to steer new sources of capital to small food enterprises, organic farms and local food systems. After the publication of Woody Tasch’s “Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money– Investing as if Food, Farms and Fertility Mattered”, Tasch (pictured below) initiated the Slow Money movement from an idea that came to him while writing his book. He then formed a non-profit in Boulder, Colorado in November of 2008.

his past November, I was fortunate enough to attend the fifth annual Slow Money gathering in Louisville, Kentucky. The event featured prominent authors, farmers, environmentalists, entrepreneurs, politicians, leaders and professors. The gathering also held multiple breakout sessions for intimate discussions, a showcase of budding business owners, documentaries about unique agriculture and town hall meetings that were extremely informative. 

arrived in Louisville with my family on Monday afternoon and after checking into our hotel room, I was eager to attend the conference. We headed over to the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts and soon met up with some friends of ours who own Laughing Water Farm in Marion, Virginia. After a keynote speech from a co-founder of The Lexicon of Sustainability, Joel Salatin (pictured above) took the stage.

Joel, who was featured prominently in Michael Pollan’s 2006 book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma and the documentary film, Food Inc., has gained international fame for his farming techniques and practices on Polyface farm in Swoope, Virginia. I briefly mentioned Polyface in my last blog since their philosophy evolves around environmentally friendly methods, working to heal the land, giving extra care to their animals and being 100% committed to the local food system. This is actually what brought Michael to Polyface from California. Joel refused to send him food outside his local food shed. 

Joel received a well-deserved standing ovation after his speech. He was well spoken, down to earth and incredibly informative. After the applause died down, the guests made their way to the reception where we mingled with farmers, entrepreneurs, professors, students and investors. After an hour or so, the first day was over and we were off to a late dinner. We were given some recommendations for restaurants committed to local food in the city and to my surprise, Chipotle was on the list. 

The second day started off with a welcoming message from Woody Tasch and then quickly hurled into town hall meetings and a breakout session. With five breakout sessions to choose from, I ended up selecting the one titled GMOs (pictured above). If you’re not familiar with Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), they are organisms whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated in a laboratory through genetic engineering. Vandana Shiva, known internationally for her stance against GMO’s and globalization, spoke in great length about the importance of seed liberation and her farm in India. A personal hero of mine, it was a great honor to hear her speak and bask in her wisdom. 

Vandana Shiva

Vandana Shiva

The last day of the conference featured entrepreneurs who were financially sustainable, but looking for new capital, which is a major aspect of the Slow Money movement, to invest in sustainable agriculture. These businesses are dedicated in preserving the land for future generations and are committed to local and sustainable markets. After I attended a breakout session with local chefs, we all went outside for a group picture. Looking at the picture below brings to mind the lessons learned, the conversations shared and the knowledge gained. It was truly a memorable experience.

- Derrick Von Kundra