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.