Slow Money Central Virginia formed in 2018 with a mission to support the financial needs of small farms and other food entrepreneurs in the region, including urban agriculture in the cities of Richmond and Charlottesville. Our inaugural program is a fund that pools charitable contributions from citizens who want to make an impact on their local food system. The fund provides revolving loans to farmers and food entrepreneurs who need capital and are dedicated to using resilient, eco-friendly practices that produce healthy, delicious, nutritious food for our local community.
Our long-term mission includes building a broad system of financial support and education for our local foodshed. This includes exploring land acquisition strategies and supporting our borrowers with ongoing financial, business, and marketing training and education. (For more about about the ethos behind Mission, scroll below.)
More about the ethos behind our Mission at Slow Money Central Virginia...
Local food stands on the precipice of great change. It’s been mostly viewed in recent decades as a luxury or a lifestyle choice for those who can afford it. But it is now poised to become a necessity as our global industrial food system begins to crack under the weight of its own environmental destruction and an intractable worldwide health epidemic. Local food is the cornerstone of food sovereignty, security, and resiliency. Our small sustainable farms will become the most important enterprises in our communities, as they once were.
While we lionize virtually every other form of entrepreneurship, farming seems to exist just beyond our discussion of business. Farming is a business. Farming is entrepreneurship. It is activism and social enterprise and a host of other things that the nation and most communities claim to hold in high regard. It can be a path of social mobility and the creator of meaningful employment that it once was. It can happen in every community, rural or urban. It is not restricted to the coasts or major metropolitan hubs. The business of farming can truly take place wherever there are eaters.
But unfortunately farms don’t have ready access to the traditional financial services that other businesses do. Farms need capital to grow and compete. They need a better foundation to take on a larger economic role in our local communities. It is time for us to make financing our regional foodshed a top priority. This great change we’re seeing is not going to be a long, slow evolution. It is going to be fast and furious. And it is here now.
Our local farmers in Central Virginia do receive outstanding support from a variety of local organizations, as well as some government programs. And of course they receive financial support when consumers buy their product. But as far as a local organization that's 100% focused on the financial needs of our local farmers - that has not existed. Our organization is filling that void and joining a movement that is flourishing in many parts of the country.
The Slow Money movement encourages investors to consider allocating capital to projects and businesses that improved the health of the soil and their local food economy. Financial support for local farms is an essential component for a resilient local foodshed. The movement has spawned 28 groups across the nation, accounting for $57 million in investments in over 600 food and farming projects. These investments have taken many forms (equity, debt, royalty financing, convertible debt) but they have all been made in the spirit of “nurture capital…built around principles of carrying capacity, care of the commons, sense of place, diversity and nonviolence.”
Our SOIL program depends on the generosity of a new type of investor. While donations are a charitable contribution, our appeal is to think of yourself as a nurture capitalist and watch your money grow in a whole new way. We’re creating an opportunity to invest in the local food system beyond the dollars you may spend at our farmers markets, in CSAs, or at other local purveyors. It is a chance to rise above traditional thinking and transactional processes and become interconnected. It’s a chance to nurture relationships with the people producing our healthiest food and to seed new sources of capital for their growing needs.
Regenerative revolutions are not based on economics, politics, or ideologies. Fundamentally, they are driven by moral and ethical decisions that value healthy soil, healthy food, healthy people, and healthy communities.
Please consider investing in the future of food in Central Virginia. We believe the area is rich with opportunity for those interested in allocating a portion of their investable assets into sustainable agriculture. In addition to the many farm businesses in the region, cultural centers in Charlottesville and Richmond have vibrant food scenes that are demanding locally produced product. Community-driven financing of farm businesses should be a natural evolution of healthy and growing regional food economy.