January 28, 2015; Burlington Free Press

Earlier this month state, regulators in Oregon created a crowdfunding investment program in conjunction with Portland’s Hatch that will capitalize small local business. It allows businesses in the state to raise up to $250,000 in capital from their fellow Oregonians in increments of $2,500 per investor. Businesses must meet set criteria for these community public offerings, as described here.

In a similar vein, the Burlington Free Press features a look at Slow Money, founded in 2008 in Vermont, which encourages investments in local food systems. Its website claims it has catalyzed the investment of more than $39 million in small food enterprises since 2010. Slow Money believes “there is such a thing as money that is too fast, companies that are too big, finance that is too complex. Therefore, we must slow our money down—not all of it, of course, but enough to matter.” Further, “the 21st Century will be the era of nurture capital, built around principles of carrying capacity, care of the commons, sense of place and non-violence.”

Founder Woody Tasch says the effort is about bringing money “back down to earth.” Proponents say Slow Money investing is not simply “transactional,” but also helps build relationships and community.

One example of how it works is located can be found in the Hardwick/Greensboro area, where a group of about half a dozen food growers and producers circulate a lending pool of several hundred thousand dollars among themselves. “It’s allowed us to get through short-term cash crunch times, and it’s allowed us to take advantage of opportunities that have come up where typical bank financing would’ve have taken too long,” said Andy Kehler, co-founder/owner of Jasper Hill Farm.

Eric Becker of Strafford is an investment advisor with Clean Yield Asset Management in Norwich and a co-founder of Vermont’s Slow Money chapter. “I think there’s a lot of appetite for it from individuals that would like to move more of their money out of Wall Street and into things that really support their vision of a sustainable Vermont,” Becker said. “Food is something that people think is critical to their future, in that way. I think people want to invest in the food system, and Vermont is well-positioned to have a healthy Slow Money initiative.”

Heidi Clute, a certified financial planner at Clute Wealth Management, says, “For those who think long-term, the Slow Money approach can be perfect. Especially if they’re values-driven and they want to support the local economy and food supply. […] I think Slow Money is important for sustainability of our food supply, and supporting entrepreneurs who grow food.”

Janice St. Onge, president of the Flexible Capital Fund at the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, sees the effort as inclusive of many different forms. “There’s all kinds of money out there in different shapes and sizes, and we need it all in order to help these businesses grow,” she said, adding that investment strategies and amounts depends upon a confluence of factors.—Ruth McCambridge