Today, money moves fast — too fast. Trillions of dollars fly around the globe each day, in ways understood by very few. Investing and finance have become completely abstract, disconnected and opaque to most of us, and we need to change that.
This is the basic premise of Slow Money, which has been called both a movement and an investment strategy. Inspired by the Slow Food movement and by a 2009 book titled Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms and Fertility Mattered, by Woody Tasch, the movement’s core is the Slow Money Alliance (slowmoney.org), a non-profit based in Boulder, Colo. Entrepreneur magazine called the Slow Money movement one of the top five trends in finance.
Tasch saw food as the arena to start the Slow Money movement, but he hopes to see it spread to other sectors of the economy where the same principles would also apply, such as energy, transportation, housing and media. Things that — like food — directly affect people’s lives.
Meanwhile, the Slow Money Alliance works to pair investors and donors with small food enterprises and local food systems to further its goals. Enumerated on its website, these are: “to enhance food security, food safety and food access; improve nutrition and health; promote cultural, ecological and economic diversity; and accelerate the transition from an economy based on extraction and consumption to an economy based on preservation and restoration.”
The website also reports that since 2010, Slow Money’s activities have resulted in more than $30 million being invested in 221 small food enterprises in the United States — enterprises such as an organic grain mill, a farm offering direct local food delivery and an all-natural family butcher shop. The first international Slow Money investment has also been made: a $20,000 loan to a solar dairy in Switzerland. In keeping with the Slow Money concept, investors are not driven by the hope of sky-high returns within a certain time frame. They’re willing to wait for a return on investment while supporting enterprises whose core values align with their own.
At this year’s national Slow Money gathering, a new initiative called Gatheround was launched, which makes it possible for individuals to make and direct small donations. With a $25 donation, anyone can go online and see food entrepreneurs pitch their ideas, then direct their donation to the entrepreneur of their choice. The money is given as a zero percent loan; when repaid, the money is pooled for the Entrepreneur of the Year Award, decided by popular vote.
The Slow Money website presents six founding principles of the movement. “We must bring money back down to earth,” is the first. Another says, “We must learn to invest as if food, farms and fertility mattered. We must connect investors to the places where they live, creating vital relationships and new sources of capital for small food enterprises.”
The final principle is based on a quote from Paul Newman, famous for his own philanthropy and entrepreneurship, praising food producers. He said, “I just happen to think that in life we need to be a little like the farmer who puts back into the soil what he takes out.”