Running On Local and Relentless Touring

Tonight we found our way to Savannah, Ga. This was the ‘odd ball’ on our four-day book tour. It’s a “Running on Local’ conversation that is taking us from Miami, FL back to Pittsboro, NC via Orlando and the coast of South Carolina.

IMG_0233Every evening was booked weeks in advance. Except one – Tuesday, February 25th.

It fell between Orlando and Beaufort, SC – and Savannah, GA would have been perfect.

First I began searching in the local food/local economy space. I looked for friends on Facebook and LinkedIn. I googled every phrase about “local and Savannah” I could think of, but found nothing.  There had once been an active Slow Food chapter, but their Facebook page said they were looking for new leadership.

It was down to the last week before heading South, and I had gotten nowhere.

Then I came acIMG_0232ross my 2014 National Green Pages. Published by Green America, it comes every year, and I have never known quite what to do with it. But that day I checked the index and discovered two listings in Savannah.

The most promising was a coffee shop called The Sentient Bean. Checking their website, I discovered they have live acoustic music, and there was an online form to request to play there.

Perfect.

So I filled it in.

“We’re not a band,” I wrote, “but we’re a dynamic duo that promote local economy. We share success stories and get a lively discussion going on how to do all things local – local food, local finance, local fuel. Carol is a pioneer in the Slow Money movement, and Lyle is a maverick in the alternative fuel space. Both have written books and are great speakers. “

Then I quoted Lyle.

“In a world of doom and gloom,” remarks Estill, “where financial instruments are too complex to understand, and money moves at the speed of light, where governments are struggling to take action, and individuals are at the mercy of faceless global corporations, there are ways to localize all aspects of your life. We know. We’ve done it, and you can too.”

I filled in all the contact information, added a Facebook link to one of other events, and went to bed. The next day I found a reply in my inbox from Kristin Russell, the owner of Sentient Bean.

“Hi Carol,

We’d love to host your tour and I think we’d be a good venue.  Joemy is our events manager and she is cc’d at the email above. She will contact you soon to coordinate.  I’m afraid I’ll be out of town, which saddens me as I’m very interested in this topic but I’ll help promote it through the farmers’ market and the local food policy council I’m involved with.

Thank you,
Kristin”

Wow. Fabulous. I had struck gold, and great coffee. But the date we were coming through town was now only 6 days away! I didn’t hear from Joemy that day, and I was getting anxious. Then I got a reply. It took a few emails back and forth to confirm the date and time, but we had a booking!

“Good morning Carol,

Alright, you are confirmed for Tuesday Feb 25 at 5pm. I will post it on our website and include it in our events newsletter and events calendar. You are welcome to use the attached press contact sheet to send out the press release.

Please send the link to your facebook event page, and I will share via facebook as well.
Thanks,
Joemy”

IMG_0190By now February 25th was only 4 days out, and I was already at the Virginia Key GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance in Miami.

But I found a quiet spot, got online and went to work. Out went the Press Release to all those media outlets, and Joemy got that Facebook link.

On February 24th we rolled into Savannah. I warned Lyle that we might be the only ones at this gig, but we went on in and confidently set up a table displaying our books. Lyle made friends with an innocent guy on a couch visiting from Missouri, and cajoled him into joining us. That gave us an audience of one.

Then they started to arrive. Two elegant white-haired men who helped start a local farmers market, and Teri, fellow founder and market manager. Folks from the Savannah Urban Garden Alliance. A young woman interested in organic farming, a landscape architect, and a woman in town from Toronto who paid Lyle for a book in Canadian currency. We added an extra table, then another, then another, to fit in about a dozen movers and shakers in the local food scene.

Running On Local Savannah big jpgTo the roaring of the coffee grinder we managed a fabulous conversation. We got a sense of the local economy movement in Savannah, and we shared what we thought might be helpful.

We sold a few books, and we made an appointment to go check out Thinc Savannah, a cooperative office space, the next morning.  Out of that meeting came an offer to bring us back to town for a longer program, possibly as part of a day-long conference in May.

We left Savannah enthralled by the people and the places we had seen.

Lyle says “relentless touring” is the only way you make it as a performer. That means no nights off when you are on the road.  No skipping Savannah.

I was pretty pleased with myself for pulling that gig out of my hat. But once I found Kristen, she really earned much of the credit. And then there was that handy Green Guide, thanks to Green America.

The day of the event I had got another email from Kristin:

“Hi Carol,

I’ve promoted via the Farmers’ Market, the local community radio folks, the coffee party, and a couple other progressive social groups.  I just posted the poster on the Bean’s Facebook (I think!) which is the first time I’ve ever done that:) I hope you have a great, fun crowd and I’m sure I’ll run into you soon somewhere.  Thank you so much for finding us!

Kristin”

And thank you, Kristen.

All that effort for a couple of sustainability vagabonds who were coming through town? Impressive – and I’m grateful.

Kristen is clearly a powerful networker in her community, and I look forward to meeting her. She has a delightful, welcoming coffee shop that serves as a meeting space for folks like us.

Lyle says we got the gig by my “sheer force of will.”  I say we are all longing for a more resilient local economy, and when we find each other, we make good stuff happen.

Thank you Savannah.

I hope to be back in your town again soon.

The Seesaw

“somehow, i never thought it would be so hard to loan money to strangers with no security and almost no return”

When this email arrived I laughed out loud. Because the funniest things are those that are true, or at least mostly true.

Jeff, in his generosity, had heard about Slow Money and he approached me about finding a local farmer that might need capital. I gave him a couple of names and numbers, and  he drove a few miles to meet with a farmer who lived near him, and he also spoke to another farmer who lived a few more miles away. He offered each of them a low-interest loan for equipment they said they needed. But, then – as it happened – they each found a way to get along without needing a Slow Money loan. Which meant that they didn’t need Jeff.

In the larger scheme of things, that’s great.  Whenever possible the best course of action, especially for any small business owner, is to stay out of debt.

But Jeff is a willing potential Slow Money lender who cares deeply about the local food movement, and he’s having trouble finding someone to help. Luckily he is also a great guy, with a wonderful sense of humor, as you can see by his lighthearted email.

hey carol,
somehow, i never thought it would be so hard to loan money to strangers with no security and almost no return.    [italics added]

I talk about this phenomenon in my book, Financing Our Foodshed, in a section called “The Seesaw.”  Because that is exactly what I find myself riding in making Slow Money ‘matches.’

To clarify, we don’t really lend money to strangers. All of the Slow Money lenders and borrowers have built a friendship, and the trust between them is what these loans are built upon. No doubt Jeff will soon build a relationship with another farmer, and get to make a low-interest Slow Money  loan.

But, in making these matches, some weeks there are too many farmers and food entrepreneurs who have connected with me about needing a piece of equipment, or some start-up capital, or a walk-behind tiller – so many that it keeps me up at night.

Other times I am worrying about folks like Jeff that want to make a difference in their foodshed, but just need a way to make that happen. And I don’t have anyone that is ‘loan ready” that also lives in their foodshed, the area that they live in.

You would think by now, after catalyzing over eighty-five direct, peer-to-peer Slow Money loans here in NC to some 43 sustainable farmers and food businesses that support them – that making these loans happen would be like falling off a log.

But social change is never quite as easy as that. After all, we are dealing with people here, and complicated regulations that are not written to make it an obvious or easy road for the little guy – the small business owner. Every day I meet good, extraordinary people, but with all our time pressures, and quirkiness about money, and the myriad of details that come into play for each and every one of us, working out these first-ever-in-history simple Slow Money loans – well, it just takes time.  Which may be part of why it’s called Slow Money.

But each lender and borrower gets their own moment in history. Each relationship, each loan, is a radical departure of the money lending of our day. This is money that traditional lenders will not touch, being loaned to businesses that are re-engineering a broken food system.  These are loans to the heroes we will celebrate tomorrow but who are too over-worked today to hardly look up to receive our accolades.

And so each day I awake to hurl myself against a system that propels corporations ahead of  ‘coop’–erations, because I remain convinced it does not have to be so hard.

Angelina and John get a great story in the local paper!

After a bite of Angelina’s homemade baklava and with local honey still dripping from their chins, two lenders took a huge bite out of the credit card debt that Angelina and her husband, John incurred when they added a seating area to Angelina’s Kitchen, their unique, gourmet Greek restaurant in the small town of Pittsboro, NC.

Those two Slow Money loans meant that instead of paying nearly $500 a month for interest only, she could pay less than $200, and in just a few years became debt free.

Now Mark is ready to take Big Spoon Roasters, his delicious roasted nut butter business, from his basement to a nearby warehouse and his friend Jane would love to help – if she and I could just get past playing phone tag this weekend and have time to talk about the possible terms of their Slow Money loan.

We are going to make that happen. As we bounce from one side of this seesaw to the other, our soils are becoming more fertile, our local foodsheds more resilient, and our communities stronger and more wonderful to live in.

We can do this. We already have. And we can do this again and again. Not only here in Chatham County, but all over North Carolina, and across the USA and beyond.

8283177608_8c7cbbb94f_b

Carol Hewitt and Jordan Puryear – two of the co-founders of Slow Money NC – enjoying their local coop grocery store, Chatham Marketplace, in Pittsboro, NC

Because it matters. Because it makes a difference. A good one.

To learn how you might bounce up and down along with us you can go to the Slow Money website, or read about these stories in Financing Our Foodshed; Growing Local Food with Slow Money.

Or just enjoy a moment of fun, filmed the day my books arrived in Pittsboro.

And you can join me in  – slowly and surely  – building resilience in our local foodshed.

Solar Sheep Farming

IMG_4499Solar farms are cropping up all over NC, in fact, all across the globe. And while they are an excellent idea – harvesting energy from the sun – they create an interesting conundrum.

If they are built in a typical field, how does one keep the grasses and weeds from growing up under and around them? Because as soon as the plant material blocks any part of the solar array, it stops producing electricity.

One answer could be to mow, but this is difficult, and might well require more energy usage than the solar farm produces. A net loss of energy makes little sense.

A tote of Roundup to kills the weeds along the fence line.

Another lousy option is to spray the fields heavily with toxic chemicals. Clean energy at the expense of fertile soils. Strike two.

But there is another option.

How about putting sheep on the fields to eat down the grasses and other plants? Another example of solar double cropping – a concept piloted so brilliantly by Lyle Estill and Michael Tiemann at the Piedmont Eco-industrial Plant in Pittsboro, NC. The solar panels on that site are so elevated that they can even farm underneath them.

Turns out that this sheep option is exactly what is being tried in Mt Airy at Jimmy Mundy’s farm, and soon, in many other locations as well. Solar companies might not want to get into sheep farming, but they can, and are, collaborating with farmers to do this for them.

Lyle and I visited Jimmy Mundy and his sheep that were grazing under a 25 acre solar farm belonging to O2 Energies about a week ago. He has a buyer for all the sheep he can grow and process – up to 35 a week – which is way more than he is raising now.

But to efficiently increase his sheep production he needs a piece of equipment that holds the animal and flips it upside down, so he and his son can quickly clean the hooves. “Every animal has an Achilles’ Heel,” he explained. “With sheep it’s their feet. They need to be cleaned. The last time we did our flock it took my son and I three days. With this piece of equipment we can do them all in a morning.”

Enter Slow Money NC.

Lyle is enamored with all things relating to clean energy, and he was quick to step forward to make Jimmy a loan. The terms are $5000 at low-interest, as is the rule for Slow Money loans made in NC. Jimmy plans to make quarterly payments and get Lyle paid back in just one year. He plans to add another 100 head or so to adequately keep the plants down on this site, and even then it will not be a perfect solution. Sheep like the small young shoots and unless they are really hungry, will pass on much of the taller, woodier weeds.

But it is a move in the right direction. Along the crucial trajectory where we keep lowering our carbon footprint, and finding out of the box solutions that preserve a healthy planet for future generations. I suspect this is just the beginning of Slow Money’s role in funding solar sheep farming.

Thanks go to our good friend and Project Engineer at O2 Energies, Rebekah Hren. She told Jimmy about Slow Money and she told us about Jimmy.

It just goes to show, that yet again, Slow Money isn’t really about the money. It’s about the people. Farmers, lenders, local food processors and vendors, people who will eat locally raised lamb, and of course the hundreds of folks that can now turn on their lights, tapping the boundless energy coming from the sun.

Summer Pots and Pizza Party – the afterglow

July 28th     11:30 pm

I have to say that was an incredible party. For days people have been asking me, “How many tickets have you sold? How many people do you think are coming?”

And I would venture a guess. “Last time I looked we had sold 80 tickets online.” But then there were all the emails from folks asking if they could pay at the door.  And the Facebook event that said lots more were coming than had bought tickets.

But all that is unimportant now. Because the party is over.

Except not quite.  There is a small child’s red flip flop on the back step, and a couple of knives that are not mine on the dish drain.

I have washed up the myriad of pottery plates we used to serve Angelina’s baklava and cookies, Celebrity Dairy’s cheeses, Joan’s chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies, Donna Bianco’s fresh cannolis, and the stack of bowls that served up local blueberries and cherry tomatoes donated from 3 local farms, and two huge platters that had been full of local sweet corn. And the sticky plates that had been stacked high with Mackenzie’s right-out-your-childhood rice krispie treats.

Mackenzie with baby on the way

“I don’t bake,” she told me at the farmers market on Saturday.  “But can I bring rice krispie treats?”

Darling, you can do anything you want to. You and Tucker showed up early, set up your tent, grills, and table, and spent the entire evening over a hot charcoal grill pushing out huge grilled barbecue chicken wings for the crowd. Then you hustled over to pair up with Tucker and run a splendidly entertaining live auction, all with a 5-month baby in the oven…then back to pack up your tent, table, coolers, grill, etc. before finally being the last to leave.  Can you have anything at all that you ever ask from me?  Why yes. You may.

Sage and her beautiful local fruit creation!

Sage and her beautiful local fruit creation!

Now, as I write this, at 11:46pm, the rain has started. It is pounding on the tin roof over my office. The dishes are done, and the kitchen is almost back to normal.

There are still 3 or 4 pop-up tents in the yard and field down by the barn, but they will be fine.

What a wonderful party. I spent my time running from cabin, to the barn, to the house, and back again. Replenishing desserts, or cheese, or calling out raffle winners. I kept getting glimpses of people that I would loved to have had a chance to talk with. To catch up on our lives or to talk about Slow Money. Sometimes I managed to get a hug, or a kiss, and a very fleeting conversation. But never more.

I met new people who had come to the event to talk to me about Slow Money. I hope they will try again. To some of my dearest friends I only managed a wave. But I can’t thank you enough for coming. For showing up at our very first Slow Money NC party and fundraiser.

I put this event in our success column.

First we ran out of name tags – I only bought 100. So I rustled up some more. Then we needed to get the PA in place so we could start calling out the raffle winners. About when we thought the auction was over, Amy stepped up and offered piano lessons, and then David offered fiddle lessons. The generosity just kept coming.

I got out-bid on a tennis lesson by one of the sweetest teen-agers in town, and I was in the barn helping a pottery customer and missed out on his younger brother’s blackberry pie. Maybe next time.

We were woefully disorganized about collecting money after the auction, but folks were very patient. Next year we will be better at this!

Tomorrow I will try to put together a list of all the people we need to thank, but it will be incomplete.  I will no doubt forget someone.DSC_0122

In truth, everyone who ventured out to our house and pottery tonight needs a note of thanks. Some came from over an hour away. I know. We never spoke, but I saw you from across the crowds.

1:30am

I went back and finished cleaning the kitchen, then picked up a flashlight and took out the compost. “Too wet to woo,” came a call from a nearby tree.

A few hours earlier there were nearly 200 people in this yard, but now it’s just me, and the Barred Owl.

What a wonderful day.

Life just doesn’t get much better than this.

One organism, ten logs and seven billion people

You know what’s kind of creepy?  “These are all one organism,” Lyle said, as we finished up inoculating the last of ten Shitake logs. “These are all part of one mushroom – so when one starts to bloom so will all the others.”

“Really? How can than be?” I said.  That really is amazing, I thought, and bordering on unbelievable.

We had each come home from the Mother Earth News (MEN) Fair in Puyallup, WA in early June with a small bag of little ¾ inch dowels. They were included in the huge gift bag MEN had given all the presenters, which included Lyle and me.

I spoke on the Grit Stage on Sunday from 4-5pm about Financing Our Foodshed, Growing Local Food With Slow Money, the title of my book and the challenge I have somehow, almost inadvertently, taken on in the last few years.

Lyle’s spot had been earlier in the afternoon, on the Utne stage. His topic was his new book, Small Stories Big Changes: Agents of Change of the Frontlines of Sustainablility, and as usual he drew an admiring crowd. And he shared the stage with Bryan Welch and Albert Bates, whose stories are included in his book.

There were lots of other things in the gift bag, some edible, and some too big to get in my small carry-on suitcase.  But it was this small bag of about 100 Shitake starts that captivated me the most. I do a bit of vegetable gardening tilled and planted by my husband Mark. But never mushrooms. These were all it took to make me want to try.

I decided a few years ago we needed more edibles around our house, and so I started planting – 14 apple trees, 5 more blueberry bushes, 2 dwarf almonds, a pineapple guava, and a few Persimmon trees. Now I really wanted to see if I could grow Shitakes.

Thanks to Lyle’s sons, Arlo and Zafar, there were ten logs, about 3 feet long and 5-6” in diameter waiting for me when I showed up at Lyle’s house late one Sunday morning. Lyle had already filled his logs and was happy to show me how to drill holes (we put four rows of 5 holes per log) and gently pound in these little shitake plugs. They were ringed by a soft white substance that made them seem almost like some sort of light brown candy lined with white icing.

Once each whole was filled with the Shitake ‘dowel spawn’ or ‘mycelium,’ as it is properly called, we added bit of warm wax to seal it in place.

And now we wait. “Put these logs in a place shaded place where you will see them everyday,” Lyle instructed as we carried them to the trunk of my Volkswagon Jetta, (which is fueled with biodiesel from Piedmont Biofuels where Lyle is CEO and V. P. of Stuff.)

“Otherwise you might not know when they start coming out. And keep them moist. I plan to throw a bucket of water on mine every so often.” His stack of alternating logs looked like a miniature log house, and was right outside his front door.

One organism. That means whoever sees some growth first can call the other and alert them to go check their logs. What a concept.

I spent an hour late that night on Google, trying to confirm his one organism concept. I read about “one huge fungus growing underground in Oregon that reputedly covers 2200 acres, and is thought to be the largest known single living organism in the world.”  And then, “It is part of the accepted common folklore that the largest living thing in the world is a fungus that occupies some forty acres in Michigan.”

And I did find a website that said, “Mycelium is a network of interconnected cells that form a single organism.” But I wanted more.

Which led me to numerous claims about the health benefits of shitakes and the historic and spiritual significance of mushrooms.  All compelling, and I am now even more excited for my logs to start to fruit.

I like to think we all connected, and the one organism theory is enchanting – so I’ve decided that it’s true.

This was not Lyle’s first try at growing mushrooms, but his fourth. Three times he got mushrooms, and once it was a bust.

I also choose to believe we got it right this time, and our mushroom harvest, thanks to the good people at Mother Earth News and their generous gift of shitake dowel spawns, is going to be a huge, health-giving, interconnected success.

Melted blue candle wax covering the spawns

My own little shitake log house

Greetings

I see that you have stumbled upon this blog where I very occasionally post some bit of writing that seems to need a home. Usually they are sentimental musings about family or friends. The first post talks about the day I learned about Slow Money.

That actually grew my book, Financing Our Foodshed. Which surprised no one more than me.

You can can purchase a copy here, and the book has evolved into a national book tour to spread the gospel.

I am sure we all have several books in us, and hundreds of short stories.

I imagine there is another book on the horizon, but for now enjoy these musings.

Thanks for finding me.

 

“Now!”

I love what singer/songwriter and life-long peace activist, Holly Near, says about the Underground Railroad. At some point in history, she offers, there must have been a moment when the commitment to ending slavery overcame the fear of reprisal, and a voice in the night said,  “Now.  Run.  Go, now!

Because of that moment, countless people found a path to freedom.  Many others surely died along the way, or were sent back. Without sugar coating their struggle, I still get inspiration from those words, especially this one.

“Now.”

Today was a very hot day, even for June, in North Carolina. A clever device on my cell phone tells me the anticipated temperature range for the day was a high of 95 and a low of 70.  As I sit on my back deck, at 8pm, it is still 85, but looking out over the pond tonight there is a lovely breeze and a sunset worth painting and writing love songs about. The ducks are quacking and the bullfrogs are “thrumping” and if there is a more peaceful, lovely place in the world I don’t need to go and find it.

Today is also Sunday, and maybe that gives it a competitive edge, for I am inclined, even as a self-employed workaholic, to get away from my desk and see what the out-of-doors looks like.

For dinner I have brought out here with me a ripe, local, white peach, a Smoked Round of goat cheese from the Goat Lady, a peeled and sliced garden cucumber, and some Virginia roasted, salted peanuts I bought as I passed through there last week on my way home from VT.

Which brings me to what matters here. Local foods, local farmers, local economies. Is there something else that will sustain us as a species other than food? If so, I can stop here and find another way to pass the time. But if our healthy survival, our vibrancy and our enjoyment of life is tied to clean air to breathe, clean drinking water, and access to wholesome (as in organic) foods grown using sustainable practices, [we will leave energy, clothing and shelter to another conversation for now] then I have an irresistible opportunity to look at my own community and see what can be done, right here, right now.

One answer is clear. We need to capitalize, to help fund, local sustainable farmers, farm to fork restaurants, and related sustainable food enterprises that have little chance of getting traditional loans from banks and other lending sources.

Enter the Abundance Slow Money Project.  While this project can’t possibly be all things to all people, we can be a leg up to a few exemplary local food enterprises. And gradually, if and when they show a good payback history, we can find many more investors willing to finance their very own food shed.

The sun is down, and the tree frogs have joined in the cacophony of night pond noises.  The only light now is from the computer screen and a rising half moon.

Will this idea of investing locally appeal to folks? Will I find any brave individuals, who, in spite of a depressed economy, will want to chance throwing their hearts, bodies and minds into starting or expanding local food enterprises?

We shall see.  I can do no worse than to try…

“Now.”  We need to make a run at taking better care of our planet.

Will we make it?  Should we try?  For me, the answer is yes.

But, look for yourself.   Let me know.  How about…

Now.

A good day ~ Slow Money Comes to Pittsboro

May 20, 2010

Dad’s approach to happiness was pretty simple. He told me once,  “You’ve got your good days and your bad days. Now yesterday, I had to go to a funeral. That was a bad day. But, today? So far today has been pretty good.”

In my life, today was definitely a very good day. Woody Tasch, author of Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money, came to town and I was on the short list of people invited to hear him speak, and to spend the afternoon and evening with him. His passion, and his command of his topic made him an engaging speaker. He sized us up and decided to skip his Power Point, instead giving us a brain dump of his vision, laying out a delightful buffet of possibilities for us to attempt to digest. Use local money to invest in local food enterprises (LFE’s), offering low interest rates for both borrower and lender. A lively discussion followed as we chewed on how these concepts might be implemented in our communities, in our lives. The room was a Who’s Who of founders and staff from sustainable agriculture organizations, farmers, a “green” developer, a gourmet restaurant owner who serves almost exclusively local food, a regional sales rep from a national organic dairy, a self-defined “spent baker” who is helping to launch a miller of local grains, the owner of our local biofuels company, and the founder of our local twice-annual 4-day World Music and Dance Festival that keeps finding new ways to promote sustainability.

Woody Tasch brings his message to Pittsboro

There were others, and I could have spent an afternoon talking to any one of them. I loved being part of the expansion of Woody’s ideas.  The sense that we were part of something that could reshape our entire economy, and our local communities and our foodshed was palpable.  At times the room was electric.

A few weeks ago I tracked down a copy of Slow Money. My independent bookstore didn’t have it, and sent me to http://www.biblio.com/company/, a progressive alternative to Amazon. Actually I bought two copies. One to write all over, and turn down the page corners, habits from my student days that lets me go back and more easily find my favorite passages, and a clean copy to share with others.

This is an unusual book.  Tasch is a brilliant thinker and a poet, and while he claims not to know exactly how to execute the concepts put forth, he inspired me to try. It reads like a series of conversations, and is clearly meant to catalyze the reader into helping make Tasch’s vision of an economic overhaul and revitalization of local sustainable foodsheds a reality.

As an organizational development consultant I often said to my clients, “You need a five year plan, but if you wait until that is ready to begin your work, you will get too discouraged and bored to get the job done. You need to do something now, pick a winnable victory and just start! Meanwhile you can get the long-range plan written, adding in what you learn in these early attempts. You may make mistakes, but you have interest, passion and energy today in this room, so start here, and make something happen right now.

That is what Tasch seems to be doing.  An organization is evolving around him, and he alluded to the fact that a few groups, inspired by his message, are independently trying to put his vision into practice, finding ways to get some money in their communities/regions collected and distributed, and inventing the structures to do that. They are not waiting for Tasch to provide the blueprint, the perfect way to do this.  They are the pioneers. We can do the same right here.

So today was a good day. I finally met Roland and during the break we decided to hold an event next month to increase membership in his organization while promoting local foods and farmers, fundraising for our local coop marketplace, and having a great time.

With Mike and Tony we dreamed about the possibility of holding the next national (or East Coast) Slow Money Alliance conference right here, nearby, in the Triangle area.

I could go around the room and remember something I learned from each person this afternoon, or later while we toured ECO and the Biofuels plant, dined at the General Store Cafe where the ideas and just kept flowing. And the laughter, because we can have fun at this.

It is the hopefulness that grips me as I write.  In spite of the statistics that show it is too late to even bother, we will.  To the naysayers we can say “just you wait.”

Because when you really give up, you begin to shrivel up. And, at least from me, despair is painfully boring.  One can still walk around in the shell of a human body, pretending to be alive, but without hope and belief and passion and the willingness to engage in the promise of a sustainable, viable, humane, meaningful life for all humankind?  Life can get pretty dull.

Mission-related investing is apparently a hard sell, though it is not clear why.  Is it because we succumb to the feeling that it won’t help anyway, despair that it is too little too late?  Or fear that investing in ventures that are moral and good won’t pay? Afraid to take risks we think might cause us to lose money and have to make do with less?

The biggest obstacles to our having our lives, our world, our universe, just the way we want them are discouragement and disappointment, held in place by fear and despair.

Maybe, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Days like today fly smack, dab in the face of those feelings.  If they can knock them out of the ballpark long enough for me to get a toehold into taking action, I can be part of setting a new course.  Quick, we can use this momentum to move forward.

Because today was a good day, and I think there are more of them to look forward to.