Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Remodeling the economy....

One meal at a time. 

The now-mainstream slow food movement appears to be gathering momentum.  Even though as I have repeatedly pointed out, it needs way more momentum to overcome the obstacles of sufficient production to satisfy even a sliver of the world population.
In a world in which there is no such thing as money that is too fast, a company that is too big, or intermediation that is too complex, we find ourselves asking:
Can investing in local food systems offer an authentic alternative?

If organic farming and small food enterprises are key to the health of the economy, society, and the soil, why do they receive so little funding from government, philanthropy, or capital markets?

Could a million American families get their food from CSA's? 


(Note the heady goal of a "million families" getting their food from CSA's.  That just leaves the other 305 million or so Americans.)

This movement is neither threatening to industrial agriculture nor misguided.  It will add some value to food that many folks want and a few may want enough to pay for.  It will also provide the premium prices needed to support agrarian farms near metropolitan areas.  Local food depends, of course, of enough local customers. (Tough beans, Nebraska)

Not unimportantly, the products may often be tastier and fresher, but most of us recognize the tradeoff required for omnipresent, low-risk (nothing is truly "safe"), and relatively inexpensive food of our choice.  Jan buys from farmer markets when it works for her menu.  Even better, we are growing more and more of our summer produce.  By "we", of course, I mean....

But local food has (at least until recently) been on such a growth curve founders have decided it could work with finance as well.  Behold the Slow Money approach.
This is a call to action, a call to design new capital markets built not around extraction and consumption, but around preservation and restoration. The vision: billions of dollars a year supporting tens of thousands of independent, local-first enterprises at the base of the restorative economy.  [More]

The question is begged how much of a market would exist if the goal was not consumption.  In fact, the largest challenge IMHO to the local food movement is the very likely possibility of customers turning into competitors.  The explosion in gardening seems to me to be involving a lot of folks who formerly depended on farmer markets.

Regardless, they are overlooking one sad economic truth that is tying world leaders into knots.  We have already achieved really, really "slow money".

Just try to borrow some.

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