“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 jokes are about things that are true, or at least mostly true.

Jeff, in his generosity, had approached me about finding a local farmer that might need capital. So he drove a few miles down the road to meet with a farmer who lived near him. Jeff was ready to help with a loan to cover the cost of several new raised beds to grow more produce for local restaurants. Jeff offered his neighbor a low-interest loan for equipment he said he needed. But then when Jeff tried to actually make the loan, the farmer had found a way to get along a bit longer without needing to borrow money.

In the larger scheme of things, that’s great. Whenever possible the best course of action is to stay out of debt.

But Jeff is a willing potential Slow Money NC lender. He cares deeply about the local food movement, but 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 light-hearted email above.

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 trying to navigate!

Some days there are so 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, that it keeps me up at night.

Other times my challenge is helping folks like Jeff that want to make a difference in their local food system, but just need a way to make that happen.

You would think by now, after catalyzing over 160 direct, peer-to-peer Slow Money loans here in NC to some 98 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 their time pressures, and quirkiness about money, and the myriad of details that come into play each time, working out these first-ever-in-history simple Slow Money loans – well, they just take time. And sometimes they become really Slow Money.

But they are each their own moment in history. Each is a radical departure of the money lending of our day. This is money that traditional lenders will not free up, being loaned to businesses that are re-engineering an inadequate and immoral food system. These are loans to the heroes we will celebrate tomorrow but who may too over-worked 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.

After a bite of Angelina’s Shepherd’s Pie made with local sweet potatoes, tomatoes and beef, 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 low-interest Slow Money loans meant that instead of paying nearly $500 a month for interest only, they could pay less than $200, and in just a few years were debt free.

We love making stories like that happen. As we bounce from one side of this seesaw to the other, our soils can become more fertile, our local foodsheds more resilient, and communities stronger and more fun to live in.

We can do this. We can, and we are, and it’s a joy.

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.