As a Slow Money NW Business Advisor and a member of the Management Committee, I’m spending a fair bit of time lately thinking about Slow Money and why I invest both my time and money to further its vision of a healthy and just regional food system.
What is ‘Slow Money’? It is just that. We need to slow money down. Bring it back to earth, and put it to work solving problems instead of trying to maximize our return by investing in who-knows-who doing god-knows-what and ultimately lining the pockets of bankers in the process. Trading in the secondary market, which is basically what you’re doing when you’re investing in the stock market, has very little effect on creating jobs and building community. Further, as Michael Shuman points out in Local Dollars, Local Sense, the historical returns of Wall Street have been less than what people believe, typically between 3-5%.
Environmental and social problems abound. A Yes! Magazine article by Robert Jensen published earlier this year pointed out that on every crucial measure of health of the ecosphere, we are failing. As the father of two small children, I am compelled to align my actions and my money to change this downward trend.
One of the obvious solutions lies in sustainable agriculture. It’s remarkable that sustainable agriculture and a resilient food economy don’t get more attention. If done right, sustainable agriculture can strengthen our communities, provide healthy food, build soil, reduce environmental impact and create local jobs.
Unfortunately as our system currently exists, many small to medium sized farmers in WA state and across the nation can’t make a living at what they’re doing and have to rely on off farm income. Think about that for a second. Isn’t there something extremely perverse about the fact that the people we rely on for food aren’t adequately compensated?
I believe my investment money should be actively working to improve our planet and should reflect the same values I strive to live. Beyond other options that simply allow me to screen out stocks, working with Slow Money enables me to proactively seek out entrepreneurs whose businesses are helping to create the kind of world I want to live in and to develop a relationship with them.
Ultimately this intersection between finance and local food is a big leverage point for change. By improving the ability of local farmers and food producers to be successful, we can build community, enable access to better food, and reverse some of the environmental degradation. Figuring out how to do this is going to require hard work, persistence, and innovative financial solutions, such as the ones we are pursuing at Slow Money Northwest.
Bert is a professor at Bainbridge Graduate Institute and has a Ph.D. in Quantitative Ecology and Resource Management from the University of Washington. He is a member of the Slow Money Management Committee and is an advisor with the Business Advisory Program. Previously he was a founder and Chief Technical Officer of ID Systems, an RFID company focused on high value assets.