Slow Money touts investments in small food firms

“The promise of very high capital returns is not there, but very high social and environmental returns are there,” Tasch said.

By CATHERINE TSAI, Associated Press

An organization that encourages investments in small, local food businesses is relaunching an Internet portal to let donors big and small support the idea of “slow money.”

Instead of attracting venture capitalists seeking high profits, Slow Money, based in Boulder, is looking for “nurture capital” for investments with higher social and environmental rewards, Slow Money founder and Chairman Woody Tasch said.

“The promise of very high capital returns is not there, but very high social and environmental returns are there,” Tasch said.

Slow Money formed in 2009 after Tasch wrote a book that mused on investments that focus more on sustainability than consumption. The foreword was written by Slow Food International founder Carlo Petrini, who started a movement to counter fast-food lifestyles by focusing on home cooking with local, sustainable ingredients.

Through various chapters and investment clubs, Slow Money funders have invested about $24 million in about 190 small food enterprises.

At Slow Money’s annual national gathering this week, the organization kicked off its Gatheround crowd-funding platform, a Kickstarter of sorts for small-time donors hoping to chip in money for farms, bakers and other food businesses that Slow Money investors support.

Tasch isn’t completely rejecting commercial-scale agricultural operations.

“We’re not saying ‘don’t do that anymore.’ We’re saying not to put all eggs in one basket. This is about diversity in the food portfolio,” he said. Slow Money also takes no position on the point when a small food business grows too big, sidestepping controversies over organic food giants.

Among those signing up for Slow Money’s national gathering was Denver lawyer Tom Abood. He and his wife invested in the stock market for years. But about a year and a half ago, following volatility on Wall Street, the couple pulled out all their investments. They put some money into credit unions and bought promissory notes with social investment funds. They also invested with organizations like First Nations Oweesta Corp., which supports Native American communities.

“We want to make a difference in people’s lives and the economy and creating a much more sustainable economy,” Abood said.

He didn’t disclose the size of their portfolio but said it was enough to retire on before it was re-invested.

Concerns about the environment, income disparity and other issues led him to invest with an emphasis on what his money can do to help communities.

“We all get so busy caught up in consuming. We’re forgetting what’s important in life,” Abood said.

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