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Carrots, Potatoes, and Arugula—the New 401(k)?

This week, by my reckoning, marks the one-year anniversary of the stock market collapse of 2008. Since last week, when the Slow Money Alliance held its first national gathering, there’s been a considerable amount of national news coverage as magazines and websites eagerly embraced the Slow Money movement as a possible antidote to the traditional financial investment system that, about this time last year, so swiftly brought the world’s economies to their knees.

The Wall Street Journal (while sneeringly dismissing the locavore movement as a “fad”) acknowledged that, yes, perhaps there is a problem with the system of opaque derivatives and financial fantasies that encouraged so much blind, reckless gambling. The Slow Money philosophy says wealth has become gradually been disconnected from real worth, and people have become divorced from their food sources as agriculture gets more centralized, less diverse, and less resilient. Swine flu? E. coli outbreaks? Diabetes? Harm to the planet and trampling on workers’ rights? These are the fruits of Big Agra.

So we at Chelsea Green take heart in noting that more and more people are learning about this budding movement and want to do something about it.

From Time:

The Slow Money Alliance, set up as a nonprofit, brings the tenets of the Slow Food movement (buying local) to finance — exploring investment vehicles that re-circulate within the local economy, minimize environmental impact, stress diversity over monoculture, and earn decent returns. Tasch wants to give investors a stake in “restorative economy,” building the food and ecological infrastructure on a community to community basis.

“The Slow Food movement has helped raise consciousness about where food comes from, down to the farmer,” says Tasch. “We’re doing the same thing with money — where does it come from, and, when you spend or invest, where does it go?” In Tasch’s vision that covers everything from seed companies to farms to markets and restaurants.

From BusinessWeek:

The new model is a way of allocating capital that accounts for other factors, like how it affects the local community. When businesses borrow or get investment directly from their customers (in the CSA model, for example), that means that customers’ interests are aligned with creditors’ or shareholders’ interests — they’re the same group. In a local economy, they’re part of the same community, too, so they have incentives to create value beyond just pure financial returns, by doing things that benefit the local environment and community. (E.g., a farm chooses not to use pesticides that pollute the local water system — a benefit local shareholders see.)

And from, some tips for finding your own local farmer:

The first step according to Cliff is to get to know your farmer (the Slow Money conference was held in the Farmer’s Market building in Santa Fe). Start to trace the route from your local farmers to the restaurants you frequent, and see how well your grocery stores are doing. Are you still eating fruit shipped from halfway around the world? Also, check out Local Harvest for a list of local organic farmers, farmer’s markets, and food co-ops where you live. If you can, join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm and get fresh local, seasonal produce directly from the farm to your table – this is one of the best ways to support local farmers because your subscription helps their cash flow and time management – and keeps them in business.

Read the whole Wall Street Journal article.

Read the whole Time article.

Read the whole BusinessWeek article.

Read the whole Examiner article.


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