2012 Year in Review

“ Better late than never” – a wise, busy person

Slow Money NW was very busy this past year, and expects 2013 to be a major growth year. Due to this exciting craziness, our year end report comes a few weeks late. I want to keep things brief, and since it is always best to build on previous work, I want to build on September’s Quarterly Update.

As we enter our third year of operation, we see our track record attracting more attention, businesses, and funding. The highlights for this year involve innovation in microlending, launching an agricultural savings incentive program, securing new funding sources, and formalizing our approach to business assistance.

Seeds of Success
We launched our Seeds of Success savings incentive program in the last quarter. The program, implemented in conjunction with our friends at with Cascade Harvest Coalition, is part of a national effort to help beginnning farmers and ranchers grow their businesses.  We received 37 applications in December, supporting the notion that this type of work is needed. We are busy right now reviewing applications and interviewing farmers. This week the Everett Herald ran the most recent article about this program.

Farmer Reserve Fund
Our Farmer Reserve Fund launched in the second quarter and received a lot of attention for its innovative approach to solving the problem of farmers needing access to microcredit. We received immediate press for this loan loss reserve fund, have held discussions with four other counties in the region about replicating the program, and have responded to calls from others around the country wanting more details. A regional CDFI wondered if we could find them $60,000 that would allow them to make $1 million in new loans. A foundation wondered if they could do the same thing but with a $1 million reserve. Great news, but the best part of our program is that from our initial investement, two farmers from Viva Farms received lines of credit to allow them to expand their businesses. Both farmers had suffered foreclosures during the mortgage crisis and were unable to get credit through normal banking channels, and are now successfully paying down their balances, and rebuilding their credit as they grow their businesses.

We have made 5 presentations about this fund with the next one being a BALLE Community Capital webinar Feb 5th.

Of note: this week the USDA announced their Microloan program. This is very exciting for all involved. We will make sure to let folks know about these funds. We will research the details of this new opportunity to make sure we are not in competition. We are particularly interested to see if they will offer lines of credit.

Angel Professional / Peer Network
We continue to have success connecting volunteer professionals to businesses needing specific assistance, usually financials and cash flow projections, business planning, legal, marketing, and presentation coaching. To date, 42 businesses have received personal assistance. As the number of businesses has grown, we have needed to formalize the process.  We have the good fortune to welcome Betsy Powers and Bert Loosemore, super-volunteer and management team member respectively, who have spearheaded this effort. If you are a business professional or organization interested in assisting food and farm businesses in WA, OR, ID, and MT, please contact us.

Food Investor Network
In previous years we held one accredited investor event per year due to limited resources. This year we held three, with two in Portland. Our hope is to hold four this year. Our fourth quarter Seattle meeting had 6 businesses make pitches to 29 investors, with over $2 million of potential investments entering in to the due diligence phase. The best investor comment from that event: “It is so refreshing to see real businesses with OK presentations compared to polished presentations with shaky business plans.” In two years, with limited staff and minimal outreach, we have helped bring over $5 million in financing to eleven businesses in the Pacific Northwest, and we have all of you to thank for your interest, business submissions, investments, and support.

Strategic Market Research
Our track record and increasing expertise in the field has attracted interest from foundations and individuals seeking to use investment and market forces to transform the regional food economy. During the holidays we received funding from the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation to develop a market analysis and investment plan for the regional farm-to-institution market.

SMNW has consistently heard of interest from accredited investors in a fund that allows investors to pool their resources, both time and money.  A few investors have recently asked us to help them develop a managed fund concept focused on the regional food infrastructure. This conceptual fund would allow us to increase efficiencies in deal volume and due-diligence, and better manage risk which should, in turn, enhance the quality of deals and hopefully reduce or spreading out risk. The timing of this work is perfect as we can align fund research with the other market analysis research we are doing for at least one other grant project. If you are an accredited investor and would like to support this effort, or just learn more, please contact us directly.

Growth
Signups to our newsletter and visits to our website, Twitter, and Facebook pages have all seen a steady increase through the year. We are aggressively upgrading our data systems and web presence to accommodate all aspects of growth.

With all of this work comes the need to grow the organization. In the second quarter we brought on Japhet Koteen who has excelled as a Project Manager. Japhet has been focused on finalizing the Farmer Reserve Fund, developing the Seeds of Success project, researching potential fund development, and generally helping grow the organization. SMNW is sharing a Development Coordinator, Ellen Sabina, with Viva Farms and Growing Washington, which means Ellen is busy writing grants. Go, Ellen!

We are proud that we can now bring Japhet on full time. We are currently interviewing for a Business Research Intern and will be seeking a Communication Intern in the first quarter of 2013

Willapa Hills goes Indiegogo!

Willapa Hills, a previous (and funded) Food Investor Network presenter, has created an Indiegogo campaign to help with their next round of funding. Their Grow More Mold Campaign builds on five years of perfecting their craft, deepening their understanding of the marketplace and establishing a network of wholesale, distributor and broker relationships. Says Stephen Huffed, ” We are positioned for significant growth upon securing the needed financial resources to increase production.”

See the campaign here…

Financial help for start-up farmers

The Everett Herald posted an article today about our Seeds of Success IDA program:

Financial help for start-up farmers
By Debra Smith, The Herald Business Journal

Nathaniel Talbot is serious about becoming a farmer.

The 29-year-old relocated from Portland to Whidbey Island to take a farming training program at Greenbank Farm. Now he and his partner, Annie Jesperson, have leased an acre on Whidbey Island and are growing and selling fall and winter vegetables directly to 30 customers.

Their biggest challenge isn’t working the land or finding customers. It’s getting established in a business that is, as Talbot puts it, “highly capital-intensive.” Tractors, land, a greenhouse — the costs of getting started are high even for a farmer who wants to start small.

He hopes a new program will help. Talbot was one of the first people to apply for a program aimed at new farmers and ranchers. If he’s accepted, it will help him save money for a big purchase.

The program is a rural agricultural Individual Development Account. It’s being offered jointly by two local nonprofits, Slow Money Northwest and Cascade Harvest Coalition.

See full article at http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20130114/BIZ/701149980/

Slow Money Northwest to Develop Investment Strategy for Regional Farm-to-Institution Sector

As part of a regional partnership with other non-profits, school districts, and government agencies, Slow Money Northwest has received funding from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to support their efforts to bring more healthy local food into our schools, childcare facilities, senior centers and hospitals.  Over the next six months, we will develop a plan to invest strategically in businesses and organizations that can help make healthy food in our institutions. Keep an eye on this space for your opportunity to help, and be a part of this transformative effort.  See the press release below for more information.

Pilot Project To Support Expansion Of Farm To Institution Connections For Puget Sound Region
SEATTLE, WA (January 10, 2013) – With the goal of reducing childhood obesity by improving access to healthy food choices and creating new market opportunities for Washington farmers, Cascade Harvest Coalition, with funding support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is launching a pilot project to grow farm to institution connections in childcare, schools and hospitals in the region.“As past and ongoing work of our collaborative partners demonstrates, the Puget Sound region has made strides to increase access to healthy food in these institutional settings, but it can’t be brought to scale without additional resources”, said Mary Embleton, Executive Director of the Coalition.  “This project will address those barriers by identifying ways of leveraging and scaling successful aspects of farm to institution initiatives, providing replicable models and fast-tracking efforts to allow programs to grow without hands-on assistance and developing a plan that provides strategic investment recommendations that could catalyze success within the Puget Sound region over the next 3-5 years.”

The two-year project, funded with $200,000 from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, builds on current farm to institution efforts that have achieved some success in serving affordable, healthy meals within the target market and creating economic development opportunities for farmers and food hubs by connecting them with new markets and contracts.   The project brings together a diversity of partners, including Grow Food (dba Viva Farms), Northwest Agriculture Business Center (NABC), Health Care Without HarmWashington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA),Kent School DistrictSlow Money Northwest and Public Health Seattle-King County.

“Helping to identify and address key production, food safety and infrastructure needs that will allow us and other farms to provide fresh, healthy food to childcare, schools and hospitals is a tremendous opportunity,” said Ethan Schaffer, Director of Business and Organizational Development at Viva Farms.

“There is a critical role of connecting farms to partner agencies and institutions, helping build good working relationships and figuring out successful systems and models that  can be replicated,” said Lucy Norris, Director of Marketing with NABC.  “This project will provide the opportunity to share lessons learned with others wanting to increase access to local food and provide economic development opportunities.”

“Our efforts to expand the use of fresh, local fruits and vegetables on our menus has really had a positive impact on our students,” said Tom Ogg, Supervisor of Nutrition Services, Kent School District.  “They are getting to experience a larger variety of products and at the same time learn more about how and where their food is grown.”

Business Research Intern Opportunity

(UPDATE: we have closed down the applicaiton window. Thanks to all who submitted)

Slow Money NW is kicking off this new year with new plans for growth. We will update you very soon about all that is moving; but for now we want to let you know about an exciting opportunity to perform business research to quantify the growth needs within the pacific northwest’s regional food economy. The goal of this work is to better understand which regional food and farm businesses, primarily within WA and OR, are trying to expand their products and/or services, and determine their ability to accept business development services, their readiness for financing, and their financing need.

This is a paid intern position that runs initially from mid-February through June.  The intern will work on several parallel business research projects as well supporting ongoing Slow Money activities, and will participate in our unique approach to growing the regional food economy.

New Jobs for the New Year


Stockbox is hiring for two positions:

Local neighborhood grocer startup, Stockbox, is hiring an Area Grocery Manager to join our central operating team. Please submit your resume and cover letter by Saturday, January 19th to jacqueline@stockboxgrocers.com.

Stockbox South Park is hiring a part-time Customer Service Clerk. Please click for the job description and employment application. Please submit resume and cover letter to work@stockboxgrocers.com.

Position Open: Pike Place Market Manager


Pike Place Market is looking for a market manager for their upcoming season.  The manager will work at the two satellite markets as well.  See attached for details.
Here’s how to apply:
1. Apply online and email completed applications to hr@pikeplacemarket.org
2. Mail cover letter and resume to:
·         Human Resources
·         Pike Place Market Preservation & Development Authority
·         85 Pike St., Room 500
·         Seattle, WA 98101
3. Apply in person at the Market office between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays.
Compensation at the PDA includes a full range of benefits, including holidays, vacation, sick leave, employee health and dental insurance, life insurance, long term disability and much more.  The Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority is an equal opportunity employer and encourages applications from persons of diverse backgrounds and perspectives.
Zack Cook
Farm Program Manager
85 Pike Street, Room 500  I  Seattle, WA 98101


Position Open: Vashon Island Market Manager 2013 Season

The Vashon Island Farmers Market is a vibrant, thriving organization.  We are looking for someone passionately committed to local farmers and artisans to help us continue to grow. The position begins March 1, and averages about 15 hours/week during the season, April – December.  The Market Manager, responsible for all aspects of the Market,  is an employee of the Vashon Island Growers Association (VIGA) and reports to the President of the Board of Directors. Salary range is $15 – 20/hour, depending on knowledge and experience, and does not include benefits.

For more information and application, please contact Bernie O’Malley at bernorvi2@comcast.net or write to VIGA, PO Box 2894, Vashon, WA 98070. Position closes January 20th.

Rockefeller Reports

The Rockefeller Foundation has been investigating the Social and Economic Equity in US Food and Agriculture Systems. As part of this work they have generated a series of intriguing reports with the most relevant beingBridging the Gap: Funding and Social Equity Across the Food System Supply Chain. As explained at their website, “This report examines the current state of funding for addressing the problems in the food system and promotes the goals and the vision for a healthier food system. It analyzes where capital is flowing and where it is not flowing, and what kinds of approaches are needed to increase the flow and effectiveness of capital where gaps currently exist. RSF Social Finance, a Slow Money ally, managed the report. View the report …

Job Opportunities at Angelic Organics

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Angelic Organics, a farm incubator and training program in Caledonia, Illinois, has two openings for motivated organic farm professionals.

Half-time Farm Finance Program Coordinator to help beginning farmers improve the economic viability of their farms through increased access to capital and financial products as well as supporting farmers in building business and financial management skills.

 

Go to http://www.learngrowconnect.org/ for more information and to apply.

New Matching Funds Available for Beginning Farmers

We have teamed up with our friends at Cascade Harvest Coalition to create Seeds of Success, a program for beginning farmers to help beginning farmers and ranchers build assets and grow their businesses.
Nationwide, we’re facing an aging farming population, rising demand for local food, and scarcity of opportunity in rural communities. In order to change the system, we need to support and empower beginning farmers and ranchers in achieving their financial. We believe that this program will be a step in the right direction.  Participating farmers and ranchers can receive up to $5,000 in matching funds which can be used to purchase farm equipment, livestock and land. Please check out our Seeds of Success Program Page to learn more about becoming a participant, partner, or sponsor.