Investing in the Future with SlowMoney

I have been slow to throw my hat into the ring with organizations dedicated to bringing intelligent responses to our predicament. The reason is that I have a list of requirements that have to be met:

  • The proposed actions have to address the real challenges that we face.
  • The organization has to be strictly non-partisan and neutral or silent on a wide range of belief-centered positions.

I know that doesn't seem like a very long list of requirements, but it turns out that it eliminates an enormous number of organizations and individuals from consideration as affiliate partners.

On the first requirement, there are a lot of efforts out there that are either in denial about the actual predicament in which we find ourselves or are approaching solutions in a socially-cautious, status-quo fashion.  Their incremental efforts run a very high risk of being in the category of 'too little, too late,' and are therefore largely ineffective, even if energetic and well-meaning.  Even if I am glad they exist and wish them well, I simply have a hard time getting excited by efforts that, in my opinion, are badly overmatched by the pace and scope of the changes that are coming.

On the second requirement, it is my very strongest conviction that we are all in this together, that everyone has something to offer or contribute, and that we cannot afford to try and tackle the future as a splintered series of fractious mobs.  While many groups do fine work from within the confines of their partisan or otherwise exclusionary framework, I cannot afford to align with any of them, because doing so may limit my ability to reach as many people as I can.  It would be a shame for someone to ignore the Crash Course because it was seen as being authored by someone who "supports those people."  When you get right down to it, the challenges we face transcend any and all social boundaries.  Or at least they should.

I want to tell you about Slow Money, a new non-profit organization and movement that more than meets my stringent requirements (both of them), is seeking a non-status-quo solution, and promises to do great things in the arena of local food production; an area of very strong interest on my part.  One of their prime goals is to get 1,000,000 individuals to commit to investing 1% of their money into local food opportunities within 50 miles of their homes.  Awesome.

I have donated free advertising to Slow Money on this website, which non-members will see (members do not see any advertising at all), and I will be speaking at their upcoming national gathering at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday June 10th at the gorgeous Shelburne Farms facility in VT, which you can find out more about by clicking this link.

The Slow Money Principles, which I have signed (and you can sign here):

In order to enhance food security, food safety and food access; improve nutrition and health; promote cultural, ecological and economic diversity; and accelerate the transition from an economy based on extraction and consumption to an economy based on preservation and restoration, we do hereby affirm the following Principles:

  1. We must bring money back down to earth.
  2. There is such a thing as money that is too fast, companies that are too big, finance that is too complex. Therefore, we must slow our money down -- not all of it, of course, but enough to matter.
  3. The 20th Century was the era of Buy Low/Sell High and Wealth Now/Philanthropy Later—what one venture capitalist called “the largest legal accumulation of wealth in history.” The 21st Century will be the era of nurture capital, built around principles of carrying capacity, care of the commons, sense of place and non-violence.
  4. We must learn to invest as if food, farms and fertility mattered. We must connect investors to the places where they live, creating vital relationships and new sources of capital for small food enterprises.
  5. Let us celebrate the new generation of entrepreneurs, consumers and investors who are showing the way from Making A Killing to Making a Living.
  6. Paul Newman said, "I just happen to think that in life we need to be a little like the farmer who puts back into the soil what he takes out." Recognizing the wisdom of these words, let us begin rebuilding our economy from the ground up, asking:
  • What would the world be like if we invested 50% of our assets within 50 miles of where we live?
  • What if there were a new generation of companies that gave away 50% of their profits?
  • What if there were 50% more organic matter in our soil 50 years from now?

Any organization that is serious about food production but does not specifically address soil building and fertility does not truly appreciate the situation.  SlowMoney gets it, and that's one of the prime reasons I am so interested in helping out this nascent but fast-growing organization.

Our food system needs fixing, for reasons ranging from the fact that Peak Oil is real, to the idea that big agri-farming is unsustainable, to the reality that it is delivering food that is often nutritionally substandard and sometimes downright frightening.

I've spent a few hours on the phone with both the founder and director, and they are committed, connected, and bring impressive credentials and past accomplishments to the table.  I look forward to meeting them in person and spending more time figuring out who they are and how I can help.

If you are interested in attending the national gathering, I would love to see you there.  They've got a smashing good line-up of speakers and I am quite sure that it will be an enormously invigorating experience.

At any rate, I wanted to explain why the Slow Money ads have been appearing on the site, describe my connection to them, and explain why I've decided to openly support their cause.  It's a good one and is being done the right way. 

Consider my hat tossed. 

P.S.  If you attend the gathering in June, be sure to introduce yourself to me.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

…now with comments enabled…

Nice!  Congratulations on your first be-ringed hat!
(and now – off to subscribe to the Slow Money Principles…)

Hey Doc, I <a href=/comment/59410#comment-59410" target=“_blank” rel=“nofollow”>looked into this about 6 months ago, but the details remain unclear to me. Any chance you could elaborate on the details? Are they looking for investments in the organization, or just locally. I understand and agree with their agenda, but I don’t understand its application.
Thanks in advanced…Jeff

The Slow Money initiative is still very new, and appears to have evolved almost accidentally. I participated in a small group discussion last week with Woody Tasch, who wrote the book “Slow Money”. He seems rather surprised by the response and is working to develop an organization to support the ground swell that has emerged. My sense is that the focus will be on fostering the local groups that are emerging. However, he did mention that when membership reaches a critical mass, there will be opportunities to influence policy at a broader level.
The goal of Slow Money is to have one million people investing 1% of their assets in local food systems. The numbers are obviously somewhat arbitrary, but having a measurable objective is a good strategy. Woody is also part of the Investors’ Circle, which has a “patient capital” philosophy. There are some very creative ideas for alternative financing mechanisms emerging.

BTW, I’m attending the conference in Vermont…seeing Chris on the agenda was the deciding factor for me.


This is my somewhat stale understanding.  The details are in the works.  The organization can use donations, not investments.  Right now they are, like CM, building awareness.

For the Slow Money Alliance, one million endorsers of the principles seems a good number to initially invite to do something that’s aligned with the principles.

As a farmer,localvore,slow foodie,(been following the evolution of…)slow money family we applaud the CM communities apparent endorsement of the “slow” movement.

the robinsons

"...organizations dedicated to bringing intelligent responses to our predicament."
Well, I will definitely support SlowMoney (their principles seem fundamental and vital), but I was hoping for something more related to the "predicament" of debt-based money, and corrupt monetary and banking systems.  Dr. Chris' reluctance to throw his hat into some of those rings would be quite understandable, for the same reasons he stated above, and others.  My position is quite different, so I've already thrown a few hats.  Maybe he'll make a ring of his own.  I'd throw my hat into that one in a nanosecond.

Does the organisation envisage a future with economic growth? Though their principles look great, for the most part, they seem to be happy with business making profits. It seems to me that profit equals growth. Is it possible for profits to be made without growth being a consequence? I asked this in a separate topic, before comments were enabled here.

Hat tossed - signed up. 

Probably the best way to do slow money now is to trace back your food so that you are buying from the origin of your food - a sustainable family farmer. 

Here are some possibilities of slowing money down in a big way:

  • buy a farm and work it yourself or hire someone

  • put the farm into a cooperative ownership (30 investors?) and hire someone to work it and each investor shares in the bounty - either produce or cash

  • separate the farm from the investors - have the investors contribute cash each year to rent land and hire the farmer and they share in the bounty - either produce or cash

One last idea - for someone holding precious metals expecting a sharp increase in value - how can you come up with “slow money” now?  How about taking on debt and using this for the slow money?  Then should the precious metals soar the debt can be paid off - but most importantly - the money has been used to create production now when we need it. 

Remember - you can’t eat gold - so waiting for gold to be more valuable means precious time lost.  Normally I’m in favor of reducing debt but this might be the exception.

I thought readers might enjoy my recent personal efforts in “slow money”.  Note that I have no farming experience but I am helped by my father-in-law who does. 

Interpreting Chris’ “pace and scope of change” I went the distance and bought a farm and set up a cow/calf operation.  I’m trying to follow the Joel Salatin model of “let the animals do the work” and so far this has worked - they have turned 40 acres of neglected hayfield into something that looks like pasture.  However two days ago my second calf to be born needed two neighboring farmers to help pull it from its mother - I’ve been made to understand that both front legs should have come out before the head (a diving motion) but one leg was stuck - this was a large calf and the mother has a small pelvis so it took some time for the mother to recover.  The calf’s front legs were injured from the pulling so once the mother recovered we carried the calf out of the pasture in a wheelbarrow with the mother following - we set them up near the house to keep them from the coyotes who would smell the blood from the birth. 

The calf front legs are now improving but it still doesn’t know how to suckle yet.  So I’m learning how to teach it to suckle - by pushing the calf under the mother, put a couple fingers into its mouth and slip the teat into its mouth.  I’m also learning how to milk the mother and feed the calf by bottle.  That’s the end of day 3.  Oh, right, I have nine more mothers expecting!  Likely waiting for the full moon which isn’t far away…



Yes - a business can make profits without growth. The reason for the profits is just straight math - the products/services are sold for more than the costs (labor, leasing of premises, overhead costs, etc.)    Effectively there is an inherent characteristic of the organization itself that generates the profits.

The most simple example is someone who does a purely service job - say a massage therapist.  Basically they charge for their time.  Their time doesn’t have anything to do with the concept of growth - the time of the massage therapist is a renewable resource. 

One problem with corporations is that they are not really valued based on the profits they earn - they are valued based on this profit growing into the future at a certain rate for an ongoing period of time.  Thus the corporations must find ways to grow at ever increasing ways to keep the share price high.

Another problem with corporations is that sustainability (i.e. all externalities are accounted for) is largely ignored and thus actual profits are much lower than calculated. 



Once you’ve signed up you’ll get the Winter 2010 newsletter which has a lot more information about what’s going on.  Here’s the link:




This is not completely true.  There are 2 primary ways an investment in a company can be returned to the investor:  1) Equity appreciation - this is what you refer to in that a company expects to return a higher return in the future through it’s stock price by growing the company or  2) Dividends - which are payments on investments as the company earns profits.  Many large established companies pay dividends, and a lot of investment professionals like Peter Schiff recommend them, in that you are taking profits earned as they are made as opposed to waiting for appreciation.

While I agree that many investors do not account for these issues, it’s really not the corporations that are at fault.  We have become a society seeking instant gratification and because of the realitivly recent (30 or so years) distortions of the markets, that has become the normal behavior.

I don’t see anything wrong with either of these investment methods or the sustainability of them. The issue is that the investing public has been lulled into easy money, but that will change.  A more realistic investment environment will certainly be upon us soon, and then the sustainability and validity of business ventures will result in much more due dilligence by the investor.


[quote=James Wandler]
Yes - a business can make profits without growth. The reason for the profits is just straight math - the products/services are sold for more than the costs (labor, leasing of premises, overhead costs, etc.)    Effectively there is an inherent characteristic of the organization itself that generates the profits.

The most simple example is someone who does a purely service job - say a massage therapist.  Basically they charge for their time.  Their time doesn’t have anything to do with the concept of growth - the time of the massage therapist is a renewable resource. [/quote]

Hi James,

But if the company is pulling in more cash than the service or product costs to produce (including overheads, resources, etc.) then it has extra cash. For what? It can either plough the profits back into the company, thus growing the company (or becoming more efficient and thus making more profit), or it can distribute the profits to shareholder, employees and/or owners, to be spent growing the economy. Even in your massage therapist example, if the charge is greater than the cost of providing the service (including labour), then a profit is earned that will go into growing the economy, somewhere down the line.

So I still can’t see how profit will not translate into growth.


hmmmm, Fair point Sofistek, but (and unless Im totally wrong, and could be) isnt the point to slow money down, not stop it all together? Keep it local, grow the local communities? If that is the case, a business can still make a profit, and still put some back into the business effectivly growing it, but also spend some locally too, helping another business. Rather then say, wal-mart, or Goldman…bare with me as Im pulling this out of my backside, I guess All im saying is that slowing money down wont stop growth at all, just change its speed and direction.

I’m grabbing the term “slow money.” Here in Maharashtra State at Meherabad the home of Avatar Meher Baba, I live next door to “PRITHVI,” an NGO founded by Shami Shaligram. Of Prithvi’s various projects, one is an organic farm where Vedic Agriculture, “Rishi Krishi” is practiced. 
For 7 yrs. I didn’t wake up to this opportunity until I moved next door to Shami and became a regular in daily conversation. Now at the site of my new home I have 26 holes with leaves, grass, and Brahma cow dung that will be covered full with black earth tomorrow then sit a month until monsoon rain comes, projected for late June. 

2 trees are chickoo, fruit I like, 2 are flesh for birds, 16 put nitrogen into the soil. Most will come from the Prithvi farm. For a yearly contract I’ll get 2 visits a month from a farmer on the Prithvi staff following the growth of my trees and bushes – forgot those that are 2 fragrant ones: mogra and night-blooming jasmine.

Catching on last year to my opportunity  relative to the changing economy and my neighbor’s effort I brought back multiple packets of zucchini varieties that we have to go to Pune to buy, 2.5 hrs. each way. Also herbs: lavender, basil, thyme. Daily I’m expecting a supply of tulsi leaves from the farm replacing the 5 cans I’ve been stockpiling when in Pune. I make cold tulsi 5 lts. at a time. Shami will have the farm workers grow the zucchini and I can either get seedlings or better buy from the crops. It’s 8 mins. to the farm that is not only the produce but restful with the cows in an open barn I could sleep in and a large dung area under 4 neem trees where I can sit and do nothing but stare at trees and crops.

I will put “Slow Money,” its intent, effort to date, and prosperity-now-coming in my night prayer at Samadhi, the shrine,  where I will lay a flower on the pile from the day’s visiting pilgrims and staff. The walk there takes me through the Trust tamarind orchards now with bare earth and small mounds of manure around each base. That crop goes to the bazaar.

While I can get good veggies at the bazaar, I had to accept buying them meant a dim, big, open building with a dirt floor and discards to walk among preferably entering from the metal bazaar lane as on the other end there are cows with the odor strong with urine added to the open Eastern toilets. BUT the beets, carrots, okra and dill I get are fresh.

When Americans return from the Indian summer on June 15, I can pass the term “slow money” and the “SLOW MONEY” organization mission around building energy here for there.

Profits are normal and natural.  I don’t think they imply growth.  The choice of where to apply the profits is the key.  Here’s a quote from the Fedco catalog:  

“Potato Yields:  An average yield is 10 pounds harvested to 1 pound planted (10:1).  Less than 6:1 probably indicates a problem, likely caused by low fertility, lack of water, or excessive disease or insect pressure.  Yields as high as 20:1 are exceptional, but can be achieved.”

If I have a 20:1 harvest this year, it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to plow up more land to plant all the extra potatoes next spring.  I might sell more and save the $ in case I break my leg and have to hire help.  Or I could store the extras in case next year’s harvest is a dud.  Or I could compost them and add them back to the soil to improve the quality of the future potatoes.  Or I could hire someone to plant next year while I paint pictures of blooming potato fields.  Profits and excesses don’t have to be ugly.  They can lead to beauty and human expression of the divine.

Although normally not a “joiner”, I will look into this Slow Money thing because two of my heroes are now involved - Joel Salatin and Chris Martenson.

Maybe you should try The Venus Project too…

I agree that my understanding is stale, thats the point of my inquiry. Anyone can have a vision for the future, but without the means of establishing that vision, its worthless. Perhaps if the slow money movement wants to be taken more seriously, maybe their website should provide a little more detail into how this is going to work, beyond the theoretical. 

The time for discussing the problems and building awareness is over. Give me an actionable plan of attack to build this future that we desire and I will be there. Who has time for more theory and words? The principles are obvious, their application is not.

Besides getting a petition together for people to agree with their principles, have they done anything? I’m not being sarcastic here, I’m sincerely asking for information from others who might know.