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Monday, April 8, 2013

A Community Perspective: Investing in a Better Food System!

We are honored to feature this guest post from the leadership team of the Pioneer Valley Slow Money chapter.  The burgeoning Slow Money movement is about "investing as if food, farms and fertility mattered."  We at Real Pickles are excited to be offering a local investment opportunity of this kind as we work to transition our business to a worker-owned co-operative.  And, we are thankful to our local Slow Money chapter for its support!

by Paul DiLeo, Joe Grafton, Kyra Kristof, Spirit Joseph, Jeff Rosen, Sam Stegeman, and Tom Willits

"As long as money accelerates around the planet, divorced from where we live, our
 befuddlement will continue. As long as the way we invest is divorced from how we
 live and how we consume, our befuddlement will worsen. As long as the way we invest
 uproots companies, putting them in the hands of a broad, shallow pool of absentee
 shareholders whose primary goal is the endless growth of their financial capital, our
befuddlement at the depletion of our social and natural capital will only deepen."
 -Woody Tasch, Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money

The leadership team of the Pioneer Valley Slow Money Chapter has been working diligently to support Real Pickles in its efforts to raise capital through its community investment campaign.  When Dan and Addie asked us to share our reasoning behind these efforts, we responded with equal zeal.  So, here goes:

Photo credit: Paul Wagtouicz
Living where we do, in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts, nestled within the regional community of New England, we are participants in an exciting movement.  Over the past several decades, we have seen an increase in the number of farms and farmers in the region, reversing decades of decline.  Many of us have ample opportunity to join a local CSA and to shop at one of the many new farmer’s markets that are now part of our daily economic life.  Both producers and consumers are driving positive changes in the food system, as more producers build businesses with a deep commitment to their local food system and more consumers shift their buying patterns in support of local food.

And, while we are all pleased with the positive trends, few, if any of us, feel satisfied with that pace, or the current scale of the local food economy in our region.  So, what’s slowing us down?

As Woody Tasch suggests above, there is a missing piece to this economic equation.  We are missing the investors in our local food system.  Slow Money, as a movement, is growing alongside of the local food movement, designed to help that movement obtain the type of investment capital it needs.  Many of us have been engaged in heated conversations, where we decry our inability to move a portion of IRAs or other investments out of the traditional investment world and into our local economy.  There is a lag, a logjam of intent, when it comes to finding a way to match our consumer commitment to local food with an equally straightforward investor commitment.
But, as people who have been engaged in this space have learned, it’s not easy to match our mission zeal up to investment opportunities.  For one thing, there are not many opportunities.  For another, as movement leaders, we are asking for our businesses to be mission-focused in a way that supports a local (food) economy.  We want them to treat their suppliers and employees well, use best ecological practices, and maintain a long-term commitment to local ownership and place.  Yet, such mission requirements do not typically provide investors with the kinds of returns they seek, or a quick way to get their money back.

Slow Money seeks to provide patient investment dollars that can finance businesses.  These dollars would not pressure them to sell out on their mission commitment.  The Slow Money movement rests on a thesis that there are good, viable businesses that can scale up to the size of the local economy which houses them.  The movement seeks businesses who can demonstrate the principles we all seek, who really need this new kind of patient, or “nurture” capital.

The Pioneer Valley Slow Money Chapter – operating as a working group within the PVGrows network – is pleased to be working with Real Pickles to assist them in meeting their finance challenge.  Real Pickles has demonstrated commitment and business competence in light of the mission elements we all seek.  They buy from local/regional family farmers, paying them fair prices.  Their transition to a worker co-operative continues a tradition of fair and equitable treatment for its employees.  Real Pickles is committed to organic agriculture in the field, and energy efficiency and solar power at its facility.  And long-term commitment to local ownership and place is what their co-op transition deal is all about.
The team at Slow Money is excited to support Real Pickles because they are the real deal.  Their commitment to principled business makes it hard for them to offer investors the kind of return they are accustomed to seeing in the world of Fast Money.  But, they embody the change we seek, and offer supporters of local food an opportunity to invest in a way that is consistent with their consumer commitment.  Real Pickles has worked hard to make this offer viable and available.  We are proud to help them get the word out.

For more information about Real Pickles' co-op investment campaign, visit www.realpickles.com/invest

1 comment:

  1. Among many investment sector,I think better Food System.The burgeoning Slow Money movement is about "investing as if food, farms and fertility mattered." We at Real Pickles are excited to be offering a local investment opportunity of this kind as we work to transition our business to a worker-owned cooperative.

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