Socially Responsible Business Archive


Permaculture Q&A: An Economic Perspective

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Want to become a better permaculturalist? Have a burning question about permaculture design? All month long Chelsea Green is taking reader questions and putting them to some of our top permaculture authors. If you want some advice from our expert authors, you can submit your questions using this form.

Today, authors Toby Hemenway (Gaia’s Garden) and Eric Toensmerier (Paradise Lot, Perennial Vegetables) discuss the business side of permaculture.

For previous posts from the “Permaculture Q&A” series check out these links:
Ben Falk Talks Nutrient Cycling
Toby Hemenway on Soil and Natural Patterns
Eric Toensmeier on Aggressive Grass and Partial Shade

Shaun from Vermont asks:
What is the single most important business strategy for the success of permaculture while earning a livable wage?

Eric Toensmeier: Hi Sean, there are a lot of “single most important things” in making a permaculture business work. If I had to pick one, it would probably be to take it seriously as a business. This applies whether your permaculture business is farming, landscaping, design and consulting, teaching, or whatever it might be.

Nobody starts a permaculture business because they are excited about record-keeping, obtaining permits, market research, or tax preparation. But businesses that take the time to plan all of these things out carefully are much more likely to succeed.

I highly recommend taking a business planning course, whether it is permaculture related or not. Clarifying your goals, understanding your markets, understanding the legal landscape, and budgeting are essential tools as much as shovels, tractors, mapping equipment, or whatever you may use. I also highly recommend Elizabeth Ü’s book, Raising Dough, which is an excellent guide to creative ways to finance your business idea once you have these other pieces in place.

Sandy from New York asks:
Can you speak to what appears to be a lack of sociopolitical analysis within permaculture education and business practices. In terms of thinking about accessibility to the classes or affordability of a design consultation firm or individual willing to share knowledge without emptying the bank. Is permaculture just another niche market in green capitalism or is it actually about building relationships and community with a shared vision for ecological preservation?

Toby Hemenway: There is no set price for a permaculture consult or plan. They cost whatever the client can afford. I know over a hundred permaculture designers, and all have sliding scales. All do at least one quarter of their work for free; in many cases it is half their work. Every permaculture teacher I know offers free classes, generous scholarships paid out of their own pocket, and does far more free mentoring than paid (I have never been paid for a mentorship, except for having my office painted in trade after a year of mentoring). Many designers—I can name dozens—travel to Haiti, other disaster areas, and inner cities at their own expense to do aid work, for free. The way they can afford this—and most of them really can’t afford it—is to have a posted fee rate comparable to other landscape designers.

Permaculture courses have always been at prices far below that of other workshops (a 2-week course with room and board costs the same as the tuition alone for a 2-day facilitation or management workshop). I have never known a teacher to turn anyone away for lack of money. You do have to ask, though, because we have found that if we advertise discounts, everyone, including the affluent, and the well educated who practice voluntary simplicity, ask for them, which denies access to the truly needy.

Unfortunately, there is a strong sense in the alternative community that everything should be free or discounted, but that turns out not to be sustainable. In a recent survey, out of 80 professional permaculture teachers and designers, only 2 were supporting themselves solely from permaculture work. The rest needed jobs in the mainstream economy to make ends meet. The real question for me is, if permaculture is valuable, why is it not valued among the sociopolitically aware community?

 

Food Justice: What it Means and Why We Need it

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

By Elizabeth Henderson, longtime sustainable agtivist, Chelsea Green author (Sharing the Harvest: A Citizen’s Guide to Community Supported Agriculture), Farmer at Peacework Organic Farm and co-Founder of the Agriculture Justice Project.

I come to my understanding of Food Justice from the perspective of my life as an organic farmer since 1980. Access for inner city and low-income people to healthy, clean, nutritious food is what you hear about most in news about food justice. According to USDA Economic Research Service in its annual report for 2012 on food security – nationally 48.9 million people live in households that are food insecure. In NYS 13.2% of all households are food insecure and 5% suffered “very low food security,” with more severe problems, deeper hunger, cutting back and skipping meals on a regular basis for both adults and children. 21.6% of all children live in food insecure households. Despite these distressing statistics, both houses of Congress agreed to cut the funding for nutrition programs in the Farm Bill of 2014.

Three Aspects of Food Justice:

  • Access to healthy, locally grow, fresh, culturally appropriate food
  • Living wage jobs for all food system workers – farmers, farmworkers, restaurant, food service, processing plant. . .
  • Community Control through cooperatives, faith-based initiatives, community organizations

In Central/Western NY, where we have rich soils and many extremely productive farms as well as gardens, there is no shortage of food.  Hunger comes from poverty.

Every bit as crucial as food access is just treatment and living wages for the people who grow, wash, cook, transport and sell our food.  Over 17% of the jobs in this country are food related.  If everyone who touched food (including both farm workers and farmers) made enough money to pay for high quality food out of their wages, our food system would be on its way to greater fairness and long-term economic viability.

Race Gender Wage Gap

Our society as a whole looks down on jobs that get people dirty.

Vocational studies are for youngsters who do poorly at academic courses. We call picking vegetables “stoop labor,” and the majority of the people who do this work are undocumented migrant farm workers whose average annual wages amount to less than $13,000 a year, according to the United Farm Workers. NYS law requires farmers to pay hired workers minimum wage, soon to rise to $9.00 an hour, and federal law requires paying legal H2A “guest workers” $9.60 an hour, but there is no requirement for time and a half for work over 40 hours a week, and even if you work 60 hours a week year round, minimum wage is poverty pay.

And there is no protection for farm workers who want to organize.

The National Labor Relations Act excludes two groups of workers – farm workers and domestics. Farm workers are not covered by the limited protections afforded to other workers by the National Labor Relations Act, particularly the right to form unions that is so much under attack these days. And protections for farmers in negotiating contracts with buyers are lacking too. The reality is that both family-scale farmers as well as farm workers in this country are in desperate need of fair trade.

Farmers Share Retail

My work as a farmer has largely focused on developing the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model as a way to ensure a decent living for family-scale farmers based on a fair contract with the people who join the CSA and agree to share the risks with the farmers. We started Peacework, the first CSA in western NY, during the winter of 1988-89. This season is our 26th. My involvement led to writing Sharing the Harvest: A Citizen’s Guide to Community Supported Agriculture (Chelsea Green, 2007) which tells our story based on interviews with hundreds of CSA farmers and organizers.

Members and farmers harvest greens together early in the season at Peacework Farm.

Peace work Farm

An aerial view of Peacework Farm, Welcher Road, Newark, New York

What the CSA model offers is a steady source of revenue and the chance to negotiate with your customers (buyers) to get a fair deal – pricing that covers the farmer’s full costs and pays the farmer a wage and even benefits such as health coverage or a pension fund. That is not profit – but it is a lot better than most ag deals or we would not have lost 4 1/2 million farms since I was born.

Carlos Petrini, founder of Slow Food, points out that farmers and their customers share a common fate. Petrini calls for food that is “good, clean and fair” and urges consumers to become “co-producers” with their farmers. Direct sales through farmers markets, on farm markets but especially CSA gives us the opportunity to transform the relationship between farmers and consumers. By sharing the risks of farming, consumers become co-producers in Petrini’s sense.

But what about food that you purchase in a store, restaurant or food service?How can you influence fairness in mainstream markets?

I have been representing the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) in an effort to answer this question by creating a social justice labeling program: Food Justice Certification. A sprinkling of farms and businesses has already been certified in Canada, Oregon, the Upper Midwest and Florida. In January, Swanton Berry Farm and Pie Ranch became the first farms to be Food Justice Certified in California. And in April, the Agricultural Justice Project (AJP) will announce the first three certifications in New York State – West Haven Farm, Green Star Coop and The Piggery Eatery and Butcher Shop, all in Ithaca.

Food Justice Certified

AJP is a program jointly sponsored by four not-for-profits that work on behalf of farmers and farm workers. Since 1999, NOFA, CATA (the Farmworker Support Committee, Comite de apoyo a los trabajadores agricolas), Florida Organic Growers and Consumers (FOG) and Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI-USA), have been engaged in a stakeholder process to write standards for fairness in the food system.

The program is designed for all agricultural production systems, fiber, and cosmetics, as well as food. Candidates must meet high bar standards that have been negotiated among food system stakeholders including both farmers and farm workers.

The standards (which can apply to farms, buyers, distributors, processors and retailers—every link in the supply chain from farm to table) include:

  • Fair pricing for farmers
  • Fair wages and treatment of workers
  • Safe working conditions
  • Fair and equitable contracts for farmers and buyers
  • Workers’ and farmers’ right to freedom of association and collective bargaining
  • Clear conflict resolution policies for all throughout the food chain
  • Clean and safe farmworker housing
  • Learning contracts for Interns and apprentices
  • A ban on full-time child labor together with full protection for children on farms
  • Environmental stewardship through organic certification

The goal is to change relationships so that everyone benefits. More information, including contact information, is available at: www.agriculturaljusticeproject.org

By purchasing food with this label, consumers will ensure that farmers receive a fair percentage of the “food dollar”, allowing for a stable and dignified life for the farm family. Farmworkers will receive a living wage, and be able to adequately provide for themselves and their families. And the broader community will develop a bond with those who work the land, support the economic well-being of farmers and farmworkers, and gain access to food produced in accordance with their principles and ethics.

Such a model would be one concrete step in progressing toward a more sustainable food system, in which, as stated in the principles of the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements, the “entire production, processing and distribution chain [would be] both socially just and ecologically responsible.” In this alternate vision, farm work would be valued by the larger society in direct proportion to the importance of food in peoples’ lives, thereby allowing family farmers to remain on the land, and farmworkers and their families to live a full and healthy life.

If we are to have a local food system that reliably provides most of the food needs for the population of our region, we must shift our spending priorities. The people who grow our food, farmers and farm workers, must get a fair share so that they can go on producing and lead decent lives. They do not need or even want to live like corporate CEOs. Many of the organic farmers and homesteaders I know would be happy to serve as models for a living economy based on the principle of ENOUGH. The Nearings, Helen and Scott, projected an ideal of four hours a day for bread labor, four hours for creative and artistic activities and four hours for conviviality.

Because of economic pressures, these days, people trying to make a living farming are so far from that ideal it is not funny. But if we at least begin demanding that farmers and farm workers should make a living wage with full benefits, (health care, compensation for injuries and unemployment, and retirement) from a 40 hour week, we may start moving towards true food justice that will sustain us into a future worth living.

Join the 2014 Local Food Enterprise Summit

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

As a part of Permaculture Month, Chelsea Green is proud to sponsor the 2014 Local Food Enterprise Summit, to be held May 31-June 4 in Miami, Florida, featuring two of our noteworthy authors: Eric Toensmeier and Judy Wicks!

Save $80 off registration. Register here and use discount code CHELSEA.

During this five-day intensive convergence hosted by Earth Learning and the Financial Permaculture Institute, you will learn from community investment and financial experts, permaculture designers, and sustainability entrepreneurs to begin building resiliency in your own community.

Economic and ecological challenges of the twenty-first century will be addressed, as you work with the experts to design forward-thinking businesses that optimize local, natural systems and human capacities to implement models of regenerative business and local resiliency.

Meet Our Authors

Eric Toensmeier has spent twenty years exploring edible and useful plants of the world and their use in perennial agroecosystems. He is the award winning author of Paradise Lot, Perennial Vegetables and co-author of Edible Forest Gardens with Dave Jacke. His current project is promoting perennial farming systems, including agroforestry and perennial staple crops, as a strategy to sequester carbon while restoring degraded lands, and providing food, fuel, income, and ecosystem services. Read more…

Judy Wicks is an international leader and speaker in the local-living-economies movement and former owner of the White Dog Café, acclaimed for its socially and environmentally responsible business practices. With her memoir, Good Morning, Beautiful Business, she tells her story of stumbling into entrepreneurship and ending up reviving a community and starting a national economic reform movement. Read more…

 

Don’t miss your chance to learn directly from these local food economy experts at this year’s Local Food Enterprise Summit! Space is limited. Register now using discount code CHELSEA.

Sustainable, Socially Responsible Start-Ups: Your Guide to Creating a Successful Food-Based Business

Monday, June 24th, 2013

It’s not uncommon for desk-chained daydreamers to spend hours thinking of quitting their jobs and pursuing their real dreams—whether those dreams involve starting a small family farm, opening a bakery, or something else entirely. But to do this you need—among other things—money. Lack of access to start-up capital deters many would-be entrepreneurs from doing the things they really want to do.

It shouldn’t be so hard for socially responsible, sustainable businesses to get their work off the ground, but unfortunately that’s often the case. Small businesses face a significant economic disadvantage in the marketplace. “Put another way, our capital markets are like a Mob-run casino,” writes Michael Shuman in the Foreword, “with the dice loaded to provide a huge edge to global business and undercut community-based businesses.”

Enter Elizabeth U. In Raising Dough, U, a social finance expert and founder of Finance for Food, lays out what you need to start a successful, socially responsible, food-based business.

“Elizabeth U has created a formidable one-stop guide to the brass tacks of building a successful sustainable food business,” writes Anna Lappe, founder of Real Food Media Projects and author of Diet for a Hot Planet. “For everyone who’s ever wanted to turn their passion for sustainable food into a thriving business, this book is for you.”

Through case studies and personal expertise, U outlines the necessary tools and options every socially responsible entrepreneur needs to be aware of before starting a business, including:

  • Different types of crowd-funding;
  • Fundraising laws;
  • Grants and other available capital options;
  • What to look for in a business partner;
  • How to choose an appropriate model; and more.

“Chances are good that you’re reading this book because you’re a farmer or local food entrepreneur looking for money,” Shuman writes in the Foreword. “Or you might be an investor looking to place your money in a local food business. Or perhaps you’re just interested in learning about how to start a food business. Or maybe you’ve just heard that this is a tremendous resource for anyone interested in local investing. Whatever your mission, prepare for a feast ahead.”

Raising Dough: The Complete Guide to Financing a Socially Responsible Food Business is available now and on sale for 35% off.

Read the Introduction below.

 

Raising Dough Introduction by Chelsea Green Publishing

How to Use Crowdfunding to Finance Your Sustainable Book Project

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

When Jacob Deva Racusin and Ace McArleton decided to write the essential book on natural building techniques, they knew who the publisher should be, and they knew the subject like the backs of their hands — but they were missing some key research that would help their book stand apart.

So, the two builders harnessed the power of the crowd, raised almost $3000, and the results of their research (how straw bale buildings perform energy-wise in cold climates) became a key component to the design and building processes detailed in The Natural Building Companion, published in 2012, and furthered the needed research into straw bale building designs in cold climates. They also identified where further testing and research should be directed.

Using Kickstarter to fund their research, “forced us to ingratiate ourselves to our community, which turned out to be great networking, and it was incredible to see how much people wanted to support our work,” said Racusin. “It compelled us to work on communicating about what we are doing and why. It required a lot of work, not an easy passive process, but was worth it at the end of the day.”

Racusin said the research itself was critical to the final book and “turned out to be one of the most legitimizing components to the book, and has opened many doors for us to present at conferences and engage in conversations with a much broader professional community.”

As evident with Racusin and McArleton, if harnessed properly, crowdfunding can be a powerful tool in the aspiring author’s kit. Reaching out to potential readers before the book is even underway allows you to begin the grassroots process of promotion—a step that often doesn’t occur until after a book is published. Crowdfunding also allows an author to activate that waiting audience, by keeping them apprised of the book as it’s being written, and possibly learn from readers about what the book should address. And because the crowdfunded book starts off as a community effort, it touches upon the notion of a gift economy, one based on relationships, place, and concern for the earth instead of mere profit margin.
Funders get gifts in return for their support, depending on how much they donate, but in many cases signing up as a funder isn’t any more complicated than pre-ordering a copy of the book.

Want to take part in this bottom-up financing revolution? Right now two of our authors are seeking community-based funding for exciting and necessary book projects. Sign up to help today and take a look at what you’ll receive in exchange for your help!Farming the Woods is a forthcoming book on agroforestry — or building edible forest gardens. The authors Ken Mudge and Steve Gabriel are more than half way to their fundraising goal of $8000. Help them out before May 6th and you’ll receive:

  • A signed copy of the book for a $50 donation;
  • Give $100 and get a signed copy of the book plus free admission to an upcoming mushroom inoculation workshop in New York state (includes a mushroom log to take home);
  • Give $1000 and get all the gifts offered to smaller contributors, plus a day-long workshop on your property (and the authors will leave you with tons of ideas plus 100 inoculated shiitake logs)!

For more information, and to donate, go here, and check out this video about the project:

Eric Toensmeier, author of Paradise Lot, Perennial Vegetables, and star of the Perennial Vegetables DVD, believes that tree crops are the key to fighting climate change, and he’s fundraising to write the book that proves it: Carbon Farming: A Global Toolkit for Stabilizing the Climate with Tree Crops and Regenerative Agricultural Practices

  • Give $50 and receive a signed copy of the book plus Toensmeier’s collected articles from 2010-13;
  • Give $150 and get a copy of the book plus a “perennial staple crop sampler” of at least three different perennial staple crops, with recipes or instructions for consumption;
  • Give $500 and get a 30-minute phone consult about the garden or farm of your choice and a customized list of fifty useful plant species suited to your site.

Find out more about this exciting book and how to donate, here, and watch Eric’s video about the project:

If you’ve got an important project that needs a boost to get off the ground, crowdfunding might be your ticket to success. Give it a try!

We Need Slow Money…Fast. Come to the National Gathering!

Monday, April 1st, 2013

It’s clear: we need a new economy, one where wealth is based on the health of the soil, and the true well-being of people. Ever since the publication of Woody Tasch’s book Inquiries Into the Nature of Slow Money, Chelsea Green has been a prominent supporter of projects that push for a more-just way of doing business — and last year we even made the shift to employee ownership, ensuring our own legacy of financial independence and economic justice.

At the forefront of the movement to make a better economy a reality is Woody Tasch’s organization Slow Money, and later this month you can join the excitement at Slow Money’s 4th National Gathering in Boulder, Colorado, on April 29-30.

Looking for a new kind of social investing for the 21st century? If so, plan to join Slow Money’s emerging network of thought leaders, investors, donors, farmers, social entrepreneurs and everyday folks for two days of conversations, network building and action planning in a food-loving town. What could be better?

The event’s complete list of speakers is phenomenal, and includes several Chelsea Green authors, such as:

There will also be investment presentations from two dozen small food enterprises and break out sessions on topics ranging from New Visions of Corporate Philanthropy to Exploring Seeds and Biodiversity to Impact Investing, plus the opportunity to collaborate with folks from around the country who are finding new ways to connect money, culture and the soil—including members of the 16 chapters channeling millions of dollars into local small food enterprises.

The Slow Money National Gathering brings together people who are rebuilding local food systems across the U.S. and around the world. More than 2,000 people attended the first three national gatherings—with more than $22 million now invested in more than 185 small food enterprises!

Join this forward thinking group now. For details and to register, click here.

Chelsea Green will have a table set up, so stop by and say hello!

And stay tuned for our next great book on building a Slow economy, Raising Dough: The Complete Guide to Financing a Socially Responsible Food Business. The author, Elizabeth Ü, will be at the Slow Money National Gathering as well. Here’s a preview of what the book’s about, in her own words:

Snapshots from the New Economy

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

The top 400 wealthiest people in America own more riches than the bottom 180 million. The system is broken. But we don’t need to look far to find a better one.

Do you shop at a food co-op? Then you’re supporting a democratically-owned corporation that works to serve its members instead of distant shareholders focused merely on quarterly profits.

Do you bank at a credit union instead of a multinational corporate behemoth like Bank of America or Wells Fargo? Then you’re contributing your savings toward loans that go to help businesses, home owners, and people like you right in your community.

When you turn on the lights, does your power come from a municipally owned utility? If you live in Jacksonville, Florida, or Seattle, Washington it does. Now, what if you and your neighbors got together to demand your utility generate renewable energy? They’d have to listen, because you are their primary stakeholders.

Do you buy King Arthur Flour, rent cars from Avis, or buy books from Chelsea Green? If you do, you’re supporting companies that are owned by their employees, which means that the profits go to the workers — in other words to the people who make them possible.

Do you own a house through a community land trust — which made that house affordable, and will make sure it stays affordable when you decide to sell it. Or do you participate in a CSA or herd share that allows you to support a local farmer while making sure you get the fresh food you want? Or maybe when a restaurant or bookstore in your town threatened to go out of business you pitched in with some cash in return for discounts on your future purchases (the Slow Money model).

In Ohio, a state ravaged by the exodus of manufacturing, yet another example of a new-economy business model is starting up. The largest worker-owned greenhouse in the state is being financed by Evergreen Cooperatives, a unique partnership between public institutions, city government, and private nonprofits. The greenhouse will sell fresh produce to the hospitals and universities in the area, cutting the carbon footprint of those goods, and bringing good, green jobs to a neighborhood that needs them.

Gar Alperovitz is the founder of the Democracy Collaborative, a key partner in the project, and Gar has long been one of the leading champions of the worker-owned shift the economy so desperately needs. Next month his book What Then Must We Do? will explain how we must democratize wealth and build a community-sustaining economy from the ground up. Sustainable businesses are already changing lives and making money flow where it’s needed most. All we need is more of them.

These businesses define success as something deeper than profit. In doing so they’re living examples of what the new economy looks like. It’s not so complicated, it’s just what happens when business comes back down to earth.

(Illustration by Adrian J. Wallace)

Good Morning, Beautiful Business! The Memoir of a Social Entrepreneur

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

When Judy Wicks opened a restaurant in her Philadelphia home, she didn’t set out to change the world. But over the years she became not only a successful business woman but a game-changing activist, who, according to Inc. magazine enacted “more progressive business practices per square foot than any other entrepreneur.”

From pioneering the focus on local and humane foods in the White Dog Cafe, to laying down in front of a bulldozer to stop her block from being demolished by developers, Wicks let her heart lead her to find new ways of doing business. She went on to become a leader in the Social Venture Network, and from there spawned the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies when she realized that even “sustainable” business was following the old model of infinite growth. Organizations like Slow Money, Net Impact, Businesses for Social Responsibility, RSF Social Finance and more all grew out of the momentum Wicks helped sustain.

Now, in her memoir Good Morning, Beautiful Business, Judy Wicks shares lessons and insights from a life spent proving that business is the ideal driver for social change, and that community must be at the heart of local living economies. Judy says it best herself in the Preface, “Business, I learned, is about relationships. Money is simply a tool. What matters most are the relationships with everyone we buy from, sell to, and work with-and our relationships with Earth itself. My business was the way I expressed my love of life, and that’s made it a thing of beauty.” Continue reading the Preface below.

Good Morning, Beautiful Business is available now in both hardcover and paperback, and is 35% off this week.

“Once we say no to an immoral system, our next step is to build an alternative.” In this video, Judy describes how her mission developed, and how she became a food-economy pioneer.

Ben Cohen, cofounder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream and an early inspiration to Judy, says of the book, “Judy Wicks is one of the most amazing women I have ever met.  She continues to blaze new paths on the road to a truly sustainable people-centered economy. This is a must-read book.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer agrees. The paper just published this profile of Wicks, as well as a review of the book.

Good Morning, Beautiful Business: Preface by Chelsea Green Publishing

Slow Money Success Story: How Local Finance Helps Business Grow

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Recently, the environmental blog Treehugger featured a Slow Money success story from North Carolina.

Slow Money is a movement founded on the idea that our economy can no longer afford to ignore the health of the soil, the happiness of people, and the importance of a robust food system that’s feeds communities instead of producing commodities.

Chelsea Green was proud to publish Inquiries Into the Nature of Slow Money, a rallying cry for the movement, back in 2008, and we’re always thrilled to spread the word about communities who are seeing the ethic of Slow produce big rewards. Author Woody Tasch has continued to grow Slow Money into a vibrant organization with fun, inspiring annual events, and we have continued to publish the work of people dedicated to the mission of bringing money back down to Earth.

Local Dollars, Local Sense, by Michael Shuman, is the most recent addition to the Slow Money bookshelf. Local Dollars was the first in our Community Resilience Guides series, a partnership with the Post Carbon Institute (learn more about the project at Resilience.org). You don’t have to choose between improving the financial health of your community and increasing the wealth in your portfolio. Shuman’s book shows you how to harness the power of local investments such as crowdfunding for new businesses, community buying clubs, local stock exchanges, and more.

The second guide in the series, Power from the People, showcases communities around the world that have planned, financed, and built renewable energy infrastructure — all by themselves.

Now, let’s pop on down to North Carolina and see what’s happening!

From Treehugger: How Slow Money Financing Helps Food Businesses Grow by Sami Grover

I once proposed the idea of Slow Business as a means to reclaim our lives. That meme never really took off, but Slow Money, on the other hand, has. A movement that facilitates direct loans between private individuals and sustainable food operations, Slow Money is becoming a powerful driver for grassroots business activism.

I recently had the opportunity to talk to Carol Peppe Hewitt, a founder of the vibrant Slow Money movement here in North Carolina, as well as some of the business owners who have borrowed through Slow Money NC.

“When you run a small business for years, it’s like you see a snapshot of what is going on with the wider economy.”

That’s how Carol Peppe Hewitt describes her entry point into Slow Money.

She had been running a successful artisan pottery business with her husband Mark for decades, and observed how hard it was for small businesses to access affordable credit. This was particularly true within the local food movement – where farmers, small processors and producers were unable to get loans to start up or expand their business.

KEEP READING

Don’t Just Kick Back & Relax, Get Active: It’s Labor Day

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

Happy Labor Day! We sincerely hope if you’re reading this, that it’s not at work, but at home, at rest or among friends, or doing something you love — fermenting food, making some cheese or working on a few home projects to boost your resiliency and reduce your ecological footprint.

Or, maybe you’re just grilling. Or, maybe there is still such a thing as a Labor Day parade in your community — one that actually celebrates workers.

In 1884, Congress passed a law making the first Monday of every September “Labor Day,” a day set aside to celebrate the social and economic achievements of the everyday worker, especially union workers. Workplace safety regulations? An eight-hour workday? Paid sick and vacation days? Weekends? Yeah, thank those early labor unions — not vulture capitalists, bankers or the 1 percent.

We at Chelsea Green have a lot to celebrate this labor day, and want to invite you to share in our good cheer.

As many of you know, in late June the company sold control of its stock to its employees by creating an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan).  Essentially, that means that now close to 80 percent of the company’s stock is held by its employees. The remainder of the stock remains in the control of Ian and Margo Baldwin, who founded Chelsea Green in 1984 on the South Green in Chelsea, Vermont. Margo Baldwin is currently the company’s president and publisher and will maintain that role for the foreseeable future.

Around the same time as the ESOP was created. Chelsea Green was recognized by ForeWord Reviews as its 2011 Independent Publisher of the Year, in which the company was recognized for its “significant contributions in the categories of politics and sustainable living.” This year (to date) we’ve also landed our fourth book  on The New York Times bestseller list, with Sandor Katz’s The Art of Fermentation landing at number 14.

This doesn’t happen without a lot of hard work from all us grasshoppers here at Chelsea Green.

Given the company’s long-term mission of publishing ideas to help communities remain resilient and businesses sustainable while connecting to their sense of place, making the move to an employee-owned model is an example of the company practicing what it publishes.

“Ian and I are thrilled that the company has taken this important step and look forward to working with our employees to advance the mission and to create an even more successful and profitable company in the years to come,” added Margo Baldwin. National studies have shown ESOPs to outperform their private sector counterparts in terms of overall profitability, productivity, employee retention and employee earnings.

To celebrate, we’re putting a handful of our key labor-focused and sustainable business and economic books on sale. They include Les Leopold’s fantastic biography of Tony Mazzocchi, a major figure in the modern labor movement and John Abrams’ inspirational book on workplace democracy and equality, Companies We Keep.

And, if these books aren’t of interest, check out the forthcoming books that will soon arrive in a bookstore near you (in fact, some may have already).

So, enjoy – and seriously, don’t work too hard. But, if you do, work toward this vision of Tony Mazzocchi’s as explained by his longtime friend and biographer Les Leopold:

“Tony’s big ideas led to Tony’s big actions—and both differentiated him from nearly every other modern labor leader. He built bridges from the often insular labor movement to all of the other major movements of his time—feminism, environmentalism, antiwar, civil rights. He was instrumental in building the occupational health and safety movement, the environmental health movement, and labor-environmental alliances, as well as in creating a new generation of worker-oriented occupational health professionals. Thousand of workers’ lives were spared as a result.

He was anti-corporate to the core. He thought that the drive for every-increasing profits was in fundamental conflict with public health, workers health and safety, and a sound environment. He feared that growing corporate power could lead to authoritarianism. The antidote was growing democratic unions with an active rank and file. Most of all, he thought we had it all backward: The purpose of life was not to toil until we dropped to enrich someone else. Rather it was to live life to its fullest by working less, not more.”

A wise man. Happy Labor Day.

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