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The Slow Food, "Slow Money" Movement May Revolutionize the Way You Think About Food

The slow food movement that started in Italy two decades ago has gained much attention and popularity, with a blossoming of community supported agriculture (CSA), local organic farms and general awareness of where our food comes from. But money doesn't grow on trees, and in an economy structured around industrial-scale global agriculture, starting and sustaining small farms and local, sustainable food processing and delivery systems can be a challenge.

About five years ago, veteran financial manager Woody Tasch and his colleagues at the Investors' Circle began discussing how an intentional and organized influx of investment into localized sustainable food systems could be paired with a general increasing philosophical commitment to slow food principles.

The result is the Slow Money movement, shepherded by the Slow Money Alliance, of which Tasch is executive director. Now 750 members, including individual investors and sustainable farms and food-related businesses, are members of the alliance, and 450 people attended a Slow Money conference in Santa Fe in September.

The goals and structure of the alliance and the movement are fairly amorphous -- cynics might say squishy -- more on the philosophical than pragmatic level for the time being. Tasch's recent book "Inquiries Into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered" (Chelsea Green) aims to spark and incubate investment at all levels in local or regional food systems. This means not only organic farms, dairies and ranches, but food processing facilities, food artisans (makers of jelly, cheese, etc.) and retail or distribution networks, restaurants and stores.

"It is two things: a new way of thinking about money at a macro level, in terms of philanthropy and social investing, and on the ground it is getting money into local food systems," said Tasch. "Our objective is a very robust network at regional and local levels across the U.S. -- many, many players who are all interested in the same goal: rebuilding local food systems."