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Sustainable Table: Slow Money

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MEDFORD, Ore. — Words like “capital,” “enterprise,” and “economics” may not conjure up images of locally grown lettuce or the farmer’s market, but a diverse group of people invested in local food production want to change that.

Over a dinner of local food and wine, local investors and leaders in the food industry met to learn more about money. Specifically, how to keep money in the Rogue Valley and on Southern Oregon farms.

“Only 9 cents of every dollar spent on food goes to a farmer, and the rest goes to processors and distributors and retailers and advertisers,” says author and founder Woody Tasch.

Tasch is from Boulder, CO and is the founder of Slow Money. He is also the author of the book “Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered.”

“I had no intention to start a movement or an organization or a network.”

17 chapters across the country and 6 investment clubs have invested $21 million in 180 small food enterprises, supporting localized farms rather than industrial agriculture.

“Given how crazy the global situation is, one of the most satisfying and important things to do is take some of our money out of it and put it to work in things that we understand, near where we live, keeping out communities healthier and we think food is the place to start doing that,” Tasch says.

Amy Pearl, founder of Spring Board Innovation of Portland, couldn’t agree more.

“Every community gives away at least 80% of are capital goes outside our communities,” explained Pearl. “In the form of mortgages, in the form of are long term savings; it’s all on Wall Street.”

Pearl and Tasch know, just like with local food, local investment starts from the ground up.

“The first way you can participate to start shifting things is to use your purchasing dollars more wisely,” Woody explains. “But, our consumer dollars aren’t enough to support this transition.”

This is why Pearl suggests local food enterprises consider a DPO, or Direct Public Offering.

“You can raise up to a million dollars, it’s relatively low cost,” she says. “80% of the money comes from a 50 mile radius so it’s true community investing.”

For those who don’t think they fall into the “investor” category, she says the shares can be as low as $5, so there isn’t really anyone who couldn’t invest or who would be afraid of loosing their money.

“It’s best if we are not preaching to the choir.  It’s good to get people in town saying, we’ll I’d like to make 5% or 10% on my money and take it out of my savings account. I have $2000 I’d love to invest locally!”

For more information about Spring Board Innovation you can head to their website here.

Also, Woody Tasch’s Slow Money website is here.