“Everyone is an investor in food.” That’s the motto of Slow Money NYC, and it has rung true for me from the first time I heard it. As I started learning how interconnected everything is in life, the principles of Slow Money (a national organization that has inspired local groups like Slow Money NYC as well as a broader movement to investing in a sustainable food system) made a lot of sense.
The idea of connecting “where our food comes from with where our money goes” is simple but powerful, and addresses the challenges created by the industrial food and global finance systems. Relationships, communities and the environment matter. Farmers, place-based food entrepreneurs and healthy soil matter.
Don’t think you’re a food investor?
Every time you buy food, you are voting with your dollars. Those dollars directly support the business that produced and supplied the food.
If you have a bank account, then your deposited money is being loaned out and financing businesses, many of which could be related to food.
If you have money invested in a mutual fund, it’s very likely that some of the companies you own are connected to the food system, whether they are producing pesticides and GMO seeds or organic yogurt and baby food.
The bottom line: You are an investor in food. And every investment has an impact.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, we will need to produce as much food in the next 40 years as we have in the last 8,000 to sustain a growing global population. If the status quo—of food, health, environment and well-being—is good for you, then stop reading. However, if you believe that there is an urgent need to improve our food system and an opportunity to so, then let’s get started.
First, slow down. There’s a reason that concept is embraced by the Slow Food movement as well as Slow Money (which was inspired by it). Slowing down allows you to reflect and learn, create new relationships and co-create a new status quo.
Second, think about aligning your money and values. It’s not that hard to do if you know where to look.
Here are some steps you can take:
– Purchase healthy, sustainable, local food, especially from people you know. Become a member of a CSA (community shared agriculture) and shop at a farmers market. If you shop at a grocery store, it’s much easier these days to find new brands that are organic, sustainable and/or fair trade.
– Learn about, support and cheer on businesses at food competitions. Sites like Foodstand allow you to provide valuable feedback to food entrepreneurs, which prepares them for successful funding requests.
– Contribute to a crowdfunding campaign that helps a food business: Credibles and Barnrasier are two great platforms to try. These sites let you establish a direct relationship with a business you like. Your contribution or advance purchase (in the case of Credibles) provides the cash flow necessary for growth and development.
– Lend money to an entrepreneur or farmer. Platforms like Kiva Zip make it easy to discover inspirational entrepreneurs who are making a positive impact in their communities. On Kiva, you can lend to them in increments as low as $25. The loans carry no interest, but your principal will be repaid and you’ll receive updates from the borrower on the business and the impact you have helped to create.
– Ask your investment advisor about sustainable and responsible investing approaches to identify public companies (especially ones directly involved with food) that are improving their environmental, social and governance business practices. Some financial advisory firms, such as Natural Investments, specialize in sustainable and responsible investing.
– Invest directly in a farmer through Local Farms Fund, a new fund that helps beginning farmers secure land, or Iroquois Valley Farms, a fund that supports larger scale organic farming. Other funds that invest in socially responsible food ventures include InvestEco and RSF Social Finance. These funds make private investments in companies, people and land that are not part of the profit-at-any-cost stock market. The funds are professionally managed and help provide diversification while supporting direct relationships.
– Join a Slow Money group in your area. In the New York area, check out Foodshed Investors NY, a Slow Money-affiliated angel investor group focused on sustainable food & agriculture businesses (of which I am a member). It’s a great opportunity to build community with investors who have shared values and invest directly into rising businesses with the potential for big impact.
What kind of impact are your investments having in the world?
There are a growing number of ways we can become more intentional about our investments in food and the opportunities to create positive change. Learn more at Slow Money NYC’s Food + Enterprise Summit being held April 8-9 in Brooklyn, New York.
Brian Kaminer is a Slow Money NYC board member and co-founder of Foodshed Investors NY. He is also the owner of Talgra, which consults to people wanting to align their money and values, and the creator of Invest With Values, an educational website for investors seeking positive change.