Slow Money pushes for big results

Categories: Business

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Big photo below.
When the Slow Food idea began back in 1986 in Italy, it was simply another innovative concept regarding sustainable agriculture. But as its founder, Carlo Petrini, continued to build a following and expound on the potential benefits of stopping the spread of fast food, the concept caught fire and turned from a concept into a reality. Today, there are Slow Food chapters all over the world -- in 170 countries, according to Petrini -- including eight chapters alone in Colorado. But is food the only thing that can benefit from slowing down? How about money, too?

As Slow Food has grown, others have become involved in the movement in equally innovative ways. Woody Tasch, former chairman of the Investors' Circle, looked at the progress being made in the world of Slow Food, and realized that an opportunity existed to incorporate investors and business people who cared about local and sustainable agriculture. In 2008, Tasch founded a non-governmental organization called Slow Money, based in Boulder, and he has seen the grassroots network expand at an equally rapid pace.

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Photo by Charles Trowbridge
Petrini, left, sitting next to Tasch.
Both Petrini and Tasch are in Boulder for the fourth annual Slow Money National Gathering, and they sat down with a handful of journalists for a brief question-and-answer session earlier today.

Tasch's book, Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered, drew from the ideas set forth by Petrini and repositioned them in a financial and economic sense. The idea? To try and determine the best way for Slow Food and Slow Money to come together.

"Obviously, I was very inspired by Carlo and Slow Food or I wouldn't have called the book Slow Money. I didn't know we were starting an organization called Slow Money, I had not thought about that," Tasch said. "When I'm asked, in general, what the relationship is between Slow Food and Slow Money, I say, 'I hope Slow Money will become the best friend Slow Food ever had as we continue to grow.'"

Petrini pointed out that the community element of Slow Food is what pushed the movement forward, and now he sees Slow Money as another potential booster.

"When I see this great meeting of the minds, I think it is just like a Slow Food meeting, because I see so many people who are so passionate about the community support of agriculture and about farmer's markets," he said, speaking through an interpreter. "These people have really changed minds and changed ways people interact with each other."

Although Slow Food was built on the backs of volunteers and concerned citizens, Tasch saw the need for one more element crucial to the continuation of the movement.

"If you think about how we can use our time and money to affirmatively influence the direction of the food system and the economy, there are several ways. One is political action -- let's say lobbying, and advocacy and voting. Another is using our consumer dollars as a vote. So that's my local campaign. But then there's this other big elephant in the room that's called 'Where are the investment dollars?' So we're bringing the investment dollars to the table."

Sometimes, grassroots movements look with suspicion at investors because they fear the movement will be hijacked by money and turned into the very thing it was against in the first place. But incorporating investors into the Slow Food movement seems like a logical next step, and it can be done without compromising it, Tasch said. He believes that, collectively, we have a lengthy history of externalizing costs in order to produce cheaper things, but now we don't have that luxury. And as a result, investors, people with a little money, are going to be the first ones capable of internalizing costs in order to keep sustaining the movement.

"That doesn't mean there's something wrong with the movement; it doesn't meant there's something intellectually or morally suspicious about it. It just means everything can't happen all at once," he said. "It's going to be a phase of change, but it's obvious that the ultimate destination is real food or good food or clean food for everybody. That's the ultimate destination."

More from our Business archive: "Video: Fracking protesters disrupt energy conference with balloon alarms."


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