Investing in food, farmers and fertility -- through CSAs

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It is spring time—and thousands of Minnesotans are investing locally through their memberships in Community Supported Agriculture.

When you join a CSA, you are paying up front to provide your farmer working capital for the year. You are sharing in the plentiful –and sometimes not so—harvests that happen when the weather is too wet, too dry, too hot.

Julie Cahoy, of Minneapolis, invests in a CSA, and in doing so, follows the principles of Slow Money, including Number Four: “We must learn to invest as if food, farms, and fertility mattered. We must connect investors to the places where they live, creating healthy relationships and new sources of capital for small food enterprises.”

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Slow Money Profiles: Marian Moore

Marian Moore describes herself as a coach, consultant, facilitator and producer. Deeply rooted in principles of the Slow Money movement, Marian currently works as a leadership coach for philanthropic investors. In addition to coaching, she provides facilitation and event organization expertise to convenings of mission-driven investors.  In addition, her passion for music production, to which she devoted the first half of her career, singing and songwriting continues. Marian’s contribution organizing events and facilitating convenings has been integral as Slow Money Minnesota has established itself as an independent local group. With experience and connections beyond the local network, including past work alongside founder Woody Tasch and other minds behind the Slow Money movement, Marian has been a major foundation for Slow Money Minnesota's development.

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Slow Money May Gathering with Woody Tasch

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"What would the world be like if we invested 50 percent of our assets within 50 miles of where we live?" Woody Tasch

 

Approximately 100 people convened on a Tuesday evening in May, for the second Slow Money Minnesota Gathering., which took place at the Como Dockside Restaurant in St. Paul. People gathered to hear Slow Money founder Woody Tasch and hear presentations by  farmers and entrepreneurs as well as  investors.  Noshing on delicious hors d’oeuvres provided by area food-makers, attendees explored and connected over ways to finance a local food economy. This second gathering not only strengthened local connections and honored the movement’s founder and vision, but also marked progress at the local level with the launch of a new Slow-Money-style, micro-loan fund: the Grow A Farmer Fund.

 

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FEAST Local Foods Network award finalist for food stewardship

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The FEAST Local Foods Network, a collaborative network across Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin of local foods advocates and organizer of the annualFeast! Local Foods Marketplace, was selected as a finalist for an Environmental Initiative Award. FEAST was one of three finalists in the Food Stewardship category. The winners for the six Environmental Initiative Award categories will be announced on Thursday, May 26.

The Environmental Initiative Awards, established in 1994, annually honor innovative projects that have achieved extraordinary environmental results by harnessing the power of partnership. From large statewide efforts to small-scale locally based projects, many of Minnesota's most innovative environmental efforts have succeeded as a result of collaboration.
 
FEAST Local Foods Network is a group of local foods stakeholders who work to develop a coordinated and sustainable food system in southern Minnesota. The network is made up of representatives from many organizations and businesses, with leadership and facilitation Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), Renewing the Countryside, and the University of Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnership. The FEAST Network aims to provide resources, forge partnerships, and leverage expertise to increase awareness of the local food entrepreneurs and creativity driving the local foods economy in southern Minnesota and surrounding region.
 
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Inside Cooperative Principal

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Cooperative Principal (CP) 001 started off the new year at the Eastside Food Cooperative’s juice bar. Getting a taste of the juices, coffee drinks and hors d’oeuvres at the co-op’s new cafe, club members got a chance to see the in-progress renovations of the store’s new building. “We’ve got to check out what the co-op did with our money,” members joked as we walked through the soon-to-be refrigerator and dry goods storage area before settling down for business in a temporary office behind the store.

This investment club, founded in conjunction with a nonprofit by the same name, offers average folks the chance to learn about and collectively invest in cooperatively run businesses. Despite the meeting being filled with technical business topics like a “Financial Review of Investments Outstanding and Portfolio” and “2015 Tax Reporting,” members were making wisecracks and jokes, turning a dry agenda into a fun and lively conversation. 

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Investment Clubs 101

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 Seventeen people gathered around a large table at the Impact Hub MPLS on a Thursday to explore investing for a better food system. Attendees came from an array of backgrounds--some as interested citizens wanting to invest more consciously, others were financial experts, and still others were budding food and agricultural entrepreneurs. Together, we sat down with Joe Riemann of Cooperative Principal who chatted us through the nuts and bolts, and the possibilities and limitations of a method he’s found to be a fun and fulfilling way to move money: investment clubs.

The model is straightforward. It’s a group of people, setting aside a certain amount of money each month to collectively invest. Through regular meetings, the group decides where its money should go. By pooling their resources, members can fund larger initiatives, minimize risks, and educate each other on investing. As Joe explained, since their beginnings in the 1800s these clubs have become increasingly popular through the ‘90s. Folks enjoyed a chance to come together to “beat Wall Street.” That is, until the recession hit and investment clubs “just weren’t fun anymore.”

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Thoughtful Investing in Farming and Food

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On a lovely summer evening in June, 150 people came together for the kick-off of Slow Money Minnesota. The event came about because of the energy and interest bubbling up locally around how Minnesotans can do more to support a healthy local food system. The gathering provided an opportunity to learn about investing in food and farming, as well as sampling delicious local fare.

While Slow Money conversations have taken place in Minnesota, and some Slow Money-style investments have occurred, the timing was right to broaden the dialogue and leverage efforts. The event was designed to set the groundwork for expanding the flow of funds to promising and growing businesses, provide people at various levels of wealth to be able to invest locally, and, as a result have more successful farm and food businesses.

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