Socially Responsible Business Archive


A Permaculture Love Story, and Other New Books

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Tired of winter yet? Dreaming of spring? Our new crop of spring titles have arrived to give you something to read until the thaw comes — all on sale for 35% off until March 15th!

From natural beekeeping and saving seeds, to cold weather gardening and growing perennials, our newest books (and DVDs!) will teach you new skills for a holistic and sustainable future.

 If you’re a small farmer who wants to leave fossil fuels behind, Stephen Leslie’s book The New Horse-Powered Farm will teach you how to use draft horses to grow vegetables — and put your tractor out to pasture. For aspiring orchardists, we’ve brought a revised and updated edition of The Grafter’s Handbook back to print—this indispensable manual will remain the go-to guide for a new generation of orchardists.

In case you missed it, Anne Raver of the New York Times wrote about the “permaculture paradise” in Paradise Lot for Valentine’s Day: “It was the build-it-and-they-will-come principle…two self-described plant geeks [bought] a soulless duplex on a barren lot in this industrial city 10 years ago and turned it into their own version of the Garden of Eden. Their Eves, they figured, would show up sooner or later.” Spoiler alert: it worked!

We hope love grows in your garden this spring too.

Happy Reading from the folks at Chelsea Green Publishing!

 

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Discount codes do not combine with other offers—our books already on sale for example.

Free shipping for orders $100 or more is applied after the discount is applied.

Plant the Seeds of Greatness

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

This month, plant the seeds of a great growing season. Spend some time planning what you’ll do in the spring, so as soon as the soil thaws you can get planting.

Want to incorporate permaculture principles into your vegetable beds this year? Curious about trying new varieties of plants this year, or a new method of composting?

These select farming and gardening books are on sale to help you have an abundant and joyful harvest in the coming year.

Sepp Holzer is known around the world for bringing deserted landscapes back to life using his unique methods of creating water-retention basins. In Desert or Paradise, Holzer applies his core philosophy for increasing food production, earth health, reconnecting mankind with nature, and reforestation and water conservation across the world. He urges us to look beyond failed “solutions” to drought by learning from his lengthy catalog of successes in arid, rainfall-dependent regions such as Greece, Turkey, Spain, and Portugal.

From his twenty-seven years of experience at Cate Farm in Vermont, Richard Wiswall knows firsthand the joys of starting and operating an organic farm—as well as the challenges of making a living from one. Farming offers fundamental satisfaction from producing food, working outdoors, being one’s own boss, and working intimately with nature. But, unfortunately, many farmers avoid learning about the business end of farming, and because of this, they often work harder than they need to, or quit farming altogether because of frustrating—and often avoidable—losses. In this set, featuring The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook, plus the DVD Business Advice for Organic Farmers, Wiswall shares his story, and offers detailed advice on how to make your farm production more efficient, better manage your employees and finances, and turn a profit.

With The Winter Harvest Handbook, anyone can have access to Eliot Coleman’s innovative, highly successful methods for raising crops throughout the coldest of winters.

Coleman offers clear, concise details on greenhouse construction and maintenance, planting schedules, crop management, harvesting practices, and even marketing methods in this complete, meticulous, and illustrated guide. Readers have access to all the techniques that have proven to produce higher-quality crops on Coleman’s own farm.

Imagine growing vegetables that require just about the same amount of care as perennial flowers and shrubs, need no annual tilling or planting, yet thrive and produce abundant and nutritious crops throughout the season.

Get the best information on growing these easy and interesting crops from Eric Toensmeier in this Book & DVD set, featuring his award-winning book Perennial Vegetables, and tour his own lush forest garden in the new DVD, Perennial Vegetable Gardening with Eric Toensmeier.

The first edition of Gaia’s Garden sparked the imagination of America’s home gardeners, introducing permaculture’s central message: Working with Nature, not against her, results in more beautiful, abundant, and forgiving gardens. This extensively revised and expanded second edition broadens the reach and depth of the permaculture approach for urban and suburban growers.

Pastured Poultry Profit$ by Joel Salatin shows how a couple working six months per year for 50 hours per week on 20 acres can net $25,000-$30,000 per year with an investment equivalent to the price of one new medium-sized tractor. Seldom has agriculture held out such a plum. In a day when main-line farm experts predict the continued demise of the family farm, the pastured poultry opportunity shines like a beacon in the night, guiding the way to a brighter future.

New Arrival: Save 25% on Rebuilding the Foodshed

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Droves of people have turned to local food as a way to retreat from our broken industrial food system. From rural towns to the most urban of cities streets, people are growing, fermenting, enjoying, and celebrating food produced close to home. “Local food” is a thriving movement and also a fad, an evocative trend that captures people’s imaginations — sometimes even moreso than it translates into actual regional food production. When even Frito-Lay can claim that its mass-produced potato chips are “local” because, lo and behold, the majority of them are grown in Hastings, Florida…then it’s time to take the conversation to the next level.

Rebuilding the Foodshed, a new book by Green Mountain College professor and farmer Philip Ackerman-Leist, refocuses the locavore lens on rebuilding robust regional food systems. Only by taking a systems-thinking approach can we successfully replace the destructive aspects of industrial agriculture, meet food demands both affordably and sustainably, and be resilient enough to endure potentially rough times ahead as we face a shifting, unpredictable climate and uncertain fossil fuel supplies.

Publishers Weekly recently reviewed the book. “For a somewhat wonkish book about food policy, Rebuilding the Foodshed is unusually humorous and open-minded. Vermont farmer and professor Ackerman-Leist ruminates his way through the conundrums and possibilities of local food, demonstrating how words and their definitions can shed light on and transform our understanding of the rapidly evolving, often confusing, emotion-fraught questions of what people eat, where the food comes from, who has access to what, and how the answers to these questions affect the lives of eaters and growers. With insight, he demonstrates how communities can bridge and transcend the “false divides” he pinpoints in the local-food conversation: urban/rural, small-scale/large-scale, local/international, and all/nothing.

Rebuilding the Foodshed is the third installment in the Community Resilience Guides series. Chelsea Green Publishing has partnered with Post Carbon Institute to publish this series to detail some of the most inspiring and replicable efforts currently being taken to restore local supplies of capital, food, and power. We’ve made them available as a discounted set here.

Learn more about the series at Resilience.org.

Renowned chef and cookbook author Deborah Madison contributed the Foreword to Rebuilding the Foodshed, which you can take a look at below.

Enjoy! 

Deborah Madison’s Foreword to Rebuilding the Foodshed by

Young Farmers: Back to the Land and Down to Business

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

A New Wave of Savvy Young Farmers Plows Ahead 

New farmers are filling a small-scale niche long abandoned by industrial agriculture. As Rebecca Thistlethwaite says in the first chapter of her new book Farms with a Future, mid-sized farms are the hardest to maintain.

The USDA Census from 2007 says as much — farms earning between $10,000 and $100,000 per year disappeared in droves, while farms earning less than $10,000 cropped up like chickweed after a spring rain. As production is scaled up, stresses on the farmland and the farmer increase, but profit doesn’t necessarily keep pace. Regulations are often more stringent for larger farms, such as Vermont’s laws about selling raw milk which reduce the pressure on the smallest producers but require mid-sized ones to do expensive testing and reporting.

But a sense of place is the true spirit of local food, and these days small and even tiny farms are starting up all across the country, feeding their communities fresh food, grown organically, and creating fun lifestyles for the entrepreneurial folks who started them. Perhaps more than any previous wave of back-to-the-landers, small farmers today are approaching their missions with a desire to do it right and make a lasting, positive impact. With inspiration (and funding) from the Slow Money movement, and from farmers like Richard Wiswall (another Chelsea Green author), newcomers to the field are proceeding with caution to match their passion and harnessing the tried-and-true methods of sound business to create a resilient and sustainable food system.

New farmers are doing market research before they start digging, and writing business plans before they go out and buy a bunch of peeping chicks. Sustainable farmers like the ones FarmPlate profiles on their blog are looking for unmet needs in the local foodshed, and developing high-value that both make a tidy profit and increase the vitality of the local food culture. At the 5000 plus new farmers markets that have opened in the first dozen years of this century you’ll find the unique fruits of their labors: specialty ferments like sauerkraut or kombucha in wild new flavor combinations, artisan farmstead cheeses, heirloom vegetable varieties long thought forgotten, grains grown and ground by hand, and heritage breeds of beef, poultry, and eggs.

Here at Chelsea Green we have a dedicated interest in the growth of this movement. We’ve built our own business model on the strength of the growing desire for living more in concert with nature, eschewing fossil fuels, and coming to a deeper understanding of ecosystems and how they sustain us. We’ve seen that desire grow over the past thirty years, and while we’re pretty sure Monsanto and Exxon Mobil aren’t going away anytime soon, we know the values embodied in sustainable agriculture are a palpable alternative to the trainwreck pattern of development humanity has been pursuing over the past century and a half.

Nowhere is it more obvious that a shift is happening than in the realm of small farms and local food, and the new wave of farmers is taking the overused concept of sustainability farther than ever. By working with livestock and composting systems to restore the health of the soil, and often using horses instead of diesel-powered tractors these farmers are going back to the future (or Yak to the Future, as one Vermont company puts it). They’re putting small but important elements in place to build diverse and strong food systems by fostering strong relationships with their communities. Even the efforts farmers are making to protect their own financial and emotional sustainability by thinking carefully, doing good old-fashioned market research, and developing flexible and ambitious business plans is pushing the envelope and expanding the meaning of sustainability.

How to Spot a Farm with a Future – Grist Interviews Rebecca Thistlethwaite

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

If you follow the farming blog Honest Meat, you already know who Rebecca Thistlethwaite is. Thistlethwaite and her husband have traveled the country visiting farms and documenting their travels on Honest Meat. They once were farmers themselves, but decided to stop for a while to do some on-the-ground research to answer the most important question they knew: what makes a farm truly sustainable? 

Thistlethwaite’s brand new book, Farms with a Future, poses many answers to that question, gleaned from successful, innovative small farmers around the nation.

Recently, Grist.org interviewed Rebecca about her farming journey, the challenges farmers face, and the lessons she learned while traveling and writing Farms with a Future. Read an excerpt from the interview below, and the entire interview here.

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By Twilight Greenaway

A few years ago, Rebecca Thistlethwaite and her husband were working 80 hours a week running a large pastured meat and egg operation called TLC Ranch on rented land. The couple had spent six years barely making ends meet. They wanted to buy their own ranch, but the cost of land in Monterey County, Calif., was astronomical. Getting their meat processed presented several challenges (as it does for many small producers) and many of their loyal customers were cutting back on local and ethically produced food after the economic downturn. So, the couple decided to sell the farm and throw in the towel. Kind of.

In October of 2010, Thistlethwaite wrote on her blog Honest Meat:

… we are off to live in an RV for the next couple years, volunteer on farms and ranches around the country that we admire and hope to learn from, write a little blog about our adventure, and have some fun too.

And that’s exactly what they did. The result of this adventure is Thistlethwaite’s new book, Farms with a Future: Creating and Growing a Sustainable Farm Business. As she sees it, the book is a “practical, accessible guide that doesn’t sugarcoat the challenges of farming, but gives people some good ideas.” It’s chock full of concrete suggestions based on Thistlethwaite’s year of research and observation, the kind of book you write precisely because you need just such a guide yourself but can’t find it anywhere. And it will probably help a lot of young farmers. It might also dissuade some from jumping headfirst into a business that is not for the faint of heart — but Thistlethwaite is fine with that.

We spoke with Thistlethwaite recently about the book, the journey, and the farm she hopes to start next.

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Q. Do you want to talk a little about why you and your husband chose to sell your ranch?

A. We decided to take a break because we felt like the conditions under which we were operating were just not conducive to running a successful farm. We were paying some of the highest land rent in the country. And we were leasing land, so we really never knew what was going to happen the following year. We were also living in an area with a lot of crime. We had animals and equipment stolen; that made it really hard to run a business.

We didn’t want to quit farming, but we wanted to change where and how we were going to do it. So we thought we’d learn about how other farming operations around the country were doing it, how they are grafting together sustainable business models that meet their quality-of-life goals while being good for the earth and economically viable. It was a way to get inspired and learn. And it was a much-needed vacation!

We visited and interviewed about 19 farms total. And I think 14 of them ended up in our book.

Q. And where did you end up after the trip?

A. Now we’re located in the Columbia River Gorge on the Washington side.

Q. Do you want to speak about the challenge you and the farmers you visited face when it comes to conveying the value of sustainably produced food?

A. With the contraction of the economy, consumers are actually looking for more than cheap food. They’re looking for something that is affordable, but also embodies their other values — whether it be environmental values, social values, or the value of supporting their local economy.

So even if you’re a wholesale farmer, I think it’s really important to get your brand and your values across to your eventual customers. To just be an anonymous farmer producing an anonymous commodity doesn’t give you a chance to let your customers know who you are and what your story is. Telling that story and getting it all the way to the end user is really important. And you will be rewarded if it’s done right.

Keep reading over at Grist…

Photo Credit: Jen Jones

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.

SUGGESTED BOOKS

Meet the New Owners of Chelsea Green Publishing: The Employees!

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, VT — Independent book publisher Chelsea Green announced today that it has become an employee-owned company, with close to 80 percent of its stock to be held by its employees.

The move makes Chelsea Green unique among book publishers in an industry dominated by investor-driven, multinational corporations. Only a handful of independent book publishers can claim employee-ownership status, and of those Chelsea Green will be near the top in terms of the percentage controlled by employees.

The transaction, completed on June 29, allows a minority portion of the company’s privately held stock to be held by 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.

“Selling to our employees was the only way we could ensure the company could remain independent and stay in Vermont,” said Margo Baldwin. “The only one real way to repay investors, traditionally, is to sell. Our investors have been very patient over the years and this offered a way in which they could be repaid and allow Chelsea Green to continue its important role in the marketplace as an independent publisher.”

Chelsea Green was recently 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.” It also recently landed its fourth book  on The New York Times bestseller list, with Sandor Katz’s The Art of Fermentation landing at number 14.

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.

Chelsea Green joins a growing list of Vermont employee-owned companies, such as King Arthur Flour, Gardener’s Supply, PC Construction, and Carris Reels, among others.

Chelsea Green continues to buck the trend in the publishing industry in other ways — closing out yet another profitable year in 2011 with increased sales from the previous year. Unlike others in the industry, Chelsea Green has remained focused on publishing strong content that is valued by its readers—an active community that Chelsea Green is in continual engagement through the active use of social media and author appearances.

In 2012, so far, Chelsea Green has been adding staff in an effort to expand its digital offerings, and improve its existing online presence as well as provide greater outreach and publicity support for its authors.

Two Cheers for the JOBS Act – Michael Shuman Weighs In

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Originally published on The Huffington Post .

For nearly a century local investing has been essentially illegal, and Wall Street has monopolized all the investment options for the average investor. Thanks to the JOBS Act that President Barack Obama recently signed into law, local investing in job-creating small businesses is now legal.

Unfortunately, there has been a tremendous amount of misinformation spread about this Act, much of it by liberals I usually admire. They should be the people most eagerly embracing this bill for what it does — giving people a chance to revive Main Street economies across America.

Jim Hightower, for example, condemns the bill for “deregulating Wall Street.” In fact, the bill spells the end of Wall Street as we know it. It allows the 99% of us who are not wealthy (“unaccredited investors”) to put our money in the local businesses we love by removing what were once impossibly difficult and expensive legal hurdles. Those barriers were so targeted against small business and small investors that they resulted in almost none of our long-term savings — now totaling $30 trillion — being invested into the local half of our economy. The JOBS Act ends this misallocation of capital for good.

To me it’s ironic, and disappointing, that folks like Hightower, Robert Kuttner, and Eliot Spitzer were committed to the status quo and to maintaining Wall Street’s monopoly on capital. How could such great thinkers get this issue so wrong? Here are my top five reasons:

First, the critics misunderstand who promoted this bill. Kuttner, for example, blames Obama for being “always eager to curry favor with Wall Street donors…” Wall Street lobbyists played, at most a peripheral role, it was small business owners and “makers” like Woody Neiss and Paul Spinrad who led the charge. Innovative thinkers in the White House, like Doug Rand at the Office of Science and Technology Policy, played a pivotal role in shaping the president’s views about entrepreneurship. Non-Wall Street insiders like IndieGogo, a crowdfunding web site, and the nonprofit Sustainable Economies Law Center, pushed hard as well.

Second, the critics, who are justifiably skeptical of wholesale deregulation, don’t like to concede that any form of regulation has been a failure. But any honest assessment of the history of securities law would observe that we essentially regulated local finance out of existence while permitting Bernie Madoffs to operate freely. For decades, the SEC has held annual meetings where small business owners have urged reforms — modest deregulations that could open up capital to small companies, such as allowing small-dollar, local investments to be exempted from securities filings. The SEC never implemented any of those suggestions — even a recommendation that $100 investments be exempted.

Third, the critics have tremendously exagerrated the dangers of fraud. The casual reader of the liberal critiques might conclude that the sale of fraudulent securities is now legal, and that “boiler room” operations will be set up to bilk grandma of her life savings. Yet state and federal laws against securities fraud remain in effect. In fact, the JOBS Act adds a number of new provisions for preventing fraud, by requiring that crowdfunding offerings only be made through registered intermediaries.

Why, moreover, should anyone be banned from spending, investing, or donating a couple of hundred dollars any damn way they please? Every American, irrespective of income, is allowed to lose their life’s fortune on lotteries and casinos. Why not allow more reasonable risk tasking on building community economies? If grandma is not wealthy, the JOBS act limits her risk in any one business to the lesser of $2,000 or 5% her assets.

Fourth, the critics do not appreciate that there are other approaches to preventing fraud. E- bay has all but eliminated fraud through consumer and business evaluations of one another. So have other crowdfunding sites in the United Kingdom. In other words, the SEC’s premise — that the only way to prevent fraud is by banning unaccredited investors from making their own judgments — is flat out wrong.

Perhaps the critics’ most appalling misunderstanding is the fraudulence of the status quo. Every day the SEC allows investment advisers on AM radio to hawk the stock market, promising 10-20% annual returns, when in fact the returns — once inflation and compounding are taken out — are closer to 3%. These misrepresentations have convinced Americans that putting 100% of their savings into Fortune 500 companies is safer and provides a better return than investing in local business. In reality, the stock market is becoming an increasingly dangerous and unregulated casino where trades are done by computers that cause flash crashes when they malfunction. The JOBS Act will allow local businesses to begin to compete for a fair market share of investment dollars and provide returns that are equal to, if not slightly greater than, the true returns provided by Wall Street.

I agree, the bill is imperfect. I’m not thrilled with the deregulations of larger companies. And the bill legalizes all kinds of crowdfunding, local and nonlocal. But we can make it better. We should start educating the public about the importance of favoring local investment over abstract ones hundreds or thousands of miles away. Knowing the business in which one invests — knowing the products, the entrepreneur, the workforce, etc. — is the best way to prevent fraud.

It’s worth adding that after the bill was signed, 25 of the people who were most instrumental in passing the bill — none from Wall Street, by the way — got together to discuss ways we could create internal checks and balances on the marketplace, to improve quality control and help identify hucksters. I hope similar groups form in every community to create an honor roll of local businesses they know and trust — perhaps businesses that embrace open-book accounting — and that they then encourage residents to prioritize their crowdfunding.

Like it or not, Wall Street’s stranglehold on investment is over. We now have a new legal landscape that we can play a pivotal role in shaping. Everyone who cares about the vitality of Main Street needs to step up, not out.

Michael Shuman is the author of Local Dollars, Local Sense: How to Shift Your Money from Wall Street to Main Street and Achieve Real Prosperity (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2012) . He is research director at Cutting Edge Capital, and a fellow of the Post Carbon Institute. He attended the Rose Garden bill signing ceremony.

Strengthening Local Economies: Michael Shuman on Investing in Small Businesses

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Earlier this month Michael Shuman participated in a web event with Orion magazine, and explained the massive shift toward local investment that he outlines in his new book Local Dollars, Local Sense.

If you missed it, you can still listen to the whole thing on Orion‘s website, or on the newly launched Resilience.org, run by the Post Carbon Institute. Local Dollars, Local Sense is the first book in the Community Resilience Guide series, a joint effort of PCI and Chelsea Green, so stay tuned for the next books in the series!

Web Event Summary: Not even 1 percent of Americans’ long-term savings are invested locally, largely because it’s just not possible under the current system. But what would our towns look like if a larger fraction of this $30 trillion were in local economies? Local businesses account for half of the jobs and economic output in the U.S., so the effect could be important. During Orion‘s latest live web event, Michael Shuman, author of the new book Local Dollars, Local Sense, discussed innovative ways that citizens can improve their local economies while growing their own bank accounts.

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