Financial Tools for Slow Money Investors

Investing in local, sustainable food ventures is the most powerful way to create a more robust, balanced economy in which slow money restores the environment, promotes diversity, enhances a sense of place, builds long-term relationships at a comprehensible pace with transparent, traceable transactions.

Slow Money NYC is researching and developing new channels to invest in food and farm enterprises.  What can you do today? Here are a few options:

1. MOVE YOUR MONEY – Your checking account gives your bank collateral to make investments that probably don’t align with your values.

To provide an alternative for this basic “investment,” we launched a “Slow Money NYC” Account as a pilot project with Brooklyn Cooperative Credit Union, guaranteeing right way that your deposits will generate loans for local, small businesses and gradually increasing the number of loans to small sustainable food ventures with input from leadership of Slow Money NYC.

Since our soft launch on October 15,2011, we have amassed $25,000 in deposits in Slow Money NYC accounts!  A small but significant step.  Now, it’s your turn: MOVE YOUR MONEY TODAY!

2. Join NYC LION (Local Investment Opportunity Network), an angel network investing directly in small food enterprises after discussing with like-minded members and sharing due diligence information.

3. Connect with food entrepreneurs and investors from by attending Slow Money’s national, regional and local gatherings. Check our Meetup group for upcoming events.

In the past year, Slow Money NYC has done the following:

  • Entrepreneur Showcase on May 14, 2011 presenting ten entrepreneurs in food ventures.
  • Farm Dinner with Woody Tasch on November 2, 2011 at Parish Hall, a soon-to-be-opened Farm-to-Table restaurant seeking a final round of funding.
  • National Gathering in San Francisco on October 12, 2011, presenting over thirty entrepreneurs and meetings with interested investors afterward.

At Slow Money NYC events, you can find individual deals and develop relationships with other investors and funds, share learning and stay abreast of emerging opportunities from outside your region.

4. A list of professionally managed funds  and intermediaries are listed below.

While many of these funds are not geographically targeted, and a few of them are not focused solely on food, taken as a whole they offer ways to begin slowing some of your money down. Our listing presents, first, funds that are available to all investors, and, second, funds that are available to accredited investors.

“Accredited investor” is a term defined by the Securities Exchange Commission and generally indicates a sophisticated person, who could bear a potential financial loss from investment and whose investment does not trigger the types of public filings of investment information required of enterprises seeking funds from the general public.

5. Charitable dollars may also have impact.  Contribute to Slow Money NYC, so that we can continue to do the following work:

  • Present investment forums for people to meet and discuss how food system businesses can build a new economy and restore the environment;
  • Develop new investment channels
  • Build the Slow Money movement to and transform the manner in which investment is conceived.

Contribute to a Loan Loss Reserve Fund, an instance of which is soon to be announced by Slow Money NYC.  Such funds allow Community Development Finance Institutions to lend to smaller, less conventional food businesses, magnifying the impact of your charitable dollars.

Contribute to the Soil Trust investing your dollars alongside Slow Money investors around the country but leaving the financial returns in the Trust, to be reinvested for the benefit of future generations.

Funds for everyone:

RSF Social Investment Fund* — Min. 1,000 — Term 90 days
Offers the everyday investor a secure vehicle for financing social enterprises while earning returns similar to those of a bank CD (Nationwide)

Equal Exchange CD — Min. $1000 — Term 3 years
A hybrid CD/investment where you can tell the bank to put your savings to work directly for small farmers, Fair Trade, and worker and farmer co-ops.

Equity Trust, Inc. — Min. $1,000 — Term 1 year
Makes low-interest loans for community development, education or agricultural projects (Nationwide)

FORGE (Financing Ozarks Rural Growth and Economy) – Min. None ($500 preferred) – Term None
Provides loans to sustain the rural communities in the Ozarks and preserve the Ozark environment of Northwest Arkansas

MOFGA: Organic Farmer Loan Fund – Amounts and terms vary.
Helps Maine farmers by providing loans for working capital or farm equipment

Montana CDC – Min. $5,000 — Term 2 years
Partners with socially responsible investors who seek a modest financial return to deliver a significant community impact in Montana

New Spirit Ventures, LLC – No Minimum – Term 5 years
Helps Mid-Western farmers (Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, N. Dakota, Wisconsin) committed to organic and sustainable agriculture start, maintain and grow their operations by linking them with socially motivated investors
Email Robert Karp

ShoreBank Enterprise Cascadia – Min. $5,000 – 3 years
Relies on donations, grants and loans from religious, business, banking and philanthropic institutions to support community development in Oregon and Washington

The Carrot Project – Varies (Usually $10,000 or $25,000) – Term 5 years
Collaborates with private investors, lenders and farm support organizations to meet needs of small and mid-sized farms in the Northeast region

The Cooperative Fund of New England – Min. $1,000 – Term 1 year
35 years investing in New England’s food systems, supporting cooperatives, worker ownership, and community nonprofits without one investor losing a penny.

The Reinvestment Fund (TRF) – Min. $1,000 – Term 3 years
Builds wealth and opportunity for low-income communities in the Mid Atlantic region (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Washington, DC) through the promotion of socially and environmentally responsible development

Conservation Fund: Natural Capital Investment Fund – Min. $50,000 Term Varies
Provides debt and equity financing to small businesses in West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee

Funds for Accredited Investors:

RSF Mezzanine Fund*
Accredited Investors Min. $500,000 – Term 7 years
Provides growth capital as a complement or alternative to pure equity financing, giving social enterprises the financial flexibility to stay mission-focused as they expand (Nationwide)

RSF Program-Related Investment (PRI) Funds*
Accredited Investors Min. $100,000 – Term 5 years
Offers a streamlined means of recycling program payouts through low-interest loans to fully charitable projects (Nationwide)

The Sustainability Group Impact Portfolio*
Accredited investors $500,000 5 years
Tailored portfolio for individuals seeking higher impact.

Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund: Flexible Capital Fund*
Accredited investors $100,000 (Institutional) $50,000 (Individual) Term 10 years
Providing “near equity” royalty financing to growth companies in Vermont’s natural resource sectors.

Cape Cod Fisheries Trust**
Accredited investors Min. $250,000 – Term 3 years revolving (5-10 years preferred)
Protects depleted fisheries resources to reinvigorate fishing businesses and revitalize coastal fishing communities on Cape Cod

Ecotrust: Forests LLC**
Accredited investors Min. $500,000 – Term 7 years
Makes investments in key sectors, businesses and projects which significantly enhance the capacity for appropriate development and conservation in the coastal temperate rain forest region along the West Coast

Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI)
Accredited investors Min. $5,000 – Term 3 years
Financing for micro, small and medium enterprises, natural resource-based ventures, affordable housing and community facilities that meet triple bottom line criteria, primarily rural regions of Maine.

Farmland LP**
Accredited investors Min. $50,000 – Term 3 years
Provides investors with superior returns by acquiring conventional farmland and converting it to high-value organic farmland (Nationwide)

*These funds are Slow Money Founding Members and have provided sponsorship to Slow Money’s National Gathering in addition to membership.
**These funds are Slow Money Founding Members.