A Sept. 14 New York Times article by respected financial reporter Gretchen Morgenson led with the unfortunate headline: “After a Financial Flood, Pipes Are Still Broken.” I say unfortunate because on the same day, an Associated Press lead story started this way:
BOULDER, Colo. — As rescuers broke through to flood-ravaged Colorado towns, they issued a stern warning Saturday to anyone thinking of staying behind: Leave now or be prepared to endure weeks without electricity, running water and basic supplies.
Living as I do 10 miles from Boulder, up in the foothills of the Front Range, above one of the canyons that was washed out, Morgenson’s reference to a financial flood was particularly striking. After all, isn’t this what we are all suffering from one way or another: a financial flood that is washing out our sense of place, our sense of connection to one another, our sense of purpose?
Yes, there are pipes that are still broken in the financial plumbing. Morgenson refers specifically to the $4.6 trillion repurchase obligation or repo markets, which, five years after Lehman’s collapse, are dominated by just two too-big-to-fail banks, Bank of New York Mellon and JPMorgan Chase.
But the irony of her headline and its timing is just too great to ignore.
A few hundred thousand folks were directly impacted by the aftermath of 9 inches of rain that fell in a day and 20 inches of rain that fell in a week in places that are accustomed to less than 20 inches of rain per annum. Some 17,000 homes were destroyed. About 200 miles of road and dozens of bridges were destroyed. One prize bull was lost to drowning—at least, one that made the morning news on Colorado Public Radio.
Meanwhile, we are all victims of a financial flood. A flood that is separating the merely affluent from the superrich and both from everyone else. A flood of financial news that distracts us all from what is happening out there, every day, in the world of rain and soil, creek and pasture, community and bioregion.
Three days after Morgenson’s article appeared, and while the folks of Northern Colorado were still picking up the pieces and scouring the shelves for sump pumps, another little financial pipe burst. The video game Grand Theft Auto released its latest version and gushed $800 million in sales in one day.
Now, I was lucky up at my place. Nothing more than dampness in my crawlspace and a drive to town that is, for no one knows how long, transformed from a 10-mile trip down the hill on Magnolia Road and to the east through Boulder Canyon, into a 40-mile trip west and north through Nederland and then east again on County Road 52, the dirt road that runs through Gold Hill and then descends through Sunshine Canyon and past Poorman Road (no kidding) and eventually lands back in town, where many decent little and not-so-little pools of money remain, left behind by the financial flood.
On Oct. 22, we will host the first Slow Money Gatheround, a live online event featuring four fermented food companies that are seeking funding and nationally recognized author and fermentation expert Sandor Katz. One of the presenting companies is Boulder-based Ozukê Pickled Things. Two years ago, lifelong friends Mara King and Willow King, who are not related, started making live, raw krauts and kimchi together in Willow’s kitchen, mostly for family and friends. Inspired by the connection they felt to their living food, a blend of old-world fermentation techniques and modern recipes, and happily surprised by its tastiness, they left their respective careers in cooking and PR and took a jump together into the wild world of food entrepreneurship to start Ozuké. They already had great recipes, demand for their product and a strong business plan, but one big piece was missing: money.
|Mara and Willow are probiotic pickleteers.|
“We have been turned away by traditional banking models, we are too small for VCs and too big for friends and family,” says Willow. “We find ourselves stuck in a cycle of needing to grow in order to get more funding but needing funding in order to grow.” Not only do they need money to realize their dream, they don’t want that money to compromise the core principles on which they founded their business, things such as buying organic and paying a living wage to their employees. A Slow Money loan in March 2013 helped them overcome their initial funding hurdle, and now Ozuké is sold in 29 Whole Foods stores, 37 Vitamin Cottage outlets and other independent grocers throughout the Rocky Mountain region, and they’re looking for more funds to continue their gentle, principle-based expansion.
As Slow Money gathers steam across the country and in other parts of the world, these kinds of stories have become hearteningly common. Groups of people coming together, learning about the most exciting new areas of the local food field, getting to know the entrepreneurs as people and celebrating their values as an integral part of the investment—it’s beautiful to see the Slow Money process in action.
As a newcomer to local investing, it’s often hard to know where to start. If you want to find the latest news about a Fortune 500 company, you’re never more than a link away from a major media site. But finding and funding the small businesses rebuilding our local food systems is going to be tough, and tougher still to find a like-minded community to do it with. Slow Money has been empowering these connections and building the field through its network of local groups and national gatherings, but it’s time to offer a new way to engage.
Enter the Slow Money Gatheround.
Slow Money’s new Web-based event platform is a way to learn, share, and start moving money. Each online event brings together local food thought leaders, pioneering businesses and the funders who believe in them for a one-of-a-kind online gathering to fund promising small food businesses. The Slow Money Gatheround will feature a deep dive into a different theme every other month—such as living foods, local grains, grass-fed beef, urban gardening and holistic soil management, to name a few. After hearing from the entrepreneurs, you get to decide which you want to fund. Our first Gatheround will focus on live fermented foods, featuring Sandor Katz, author of “Wild Fermentation,” and four great enterprises: Mara and Willow’s Ozuké, Pickled Planet, Hawthorne Valley Farm and Sovereign Cider. Slow Money Gatheround will offer those new to Slow Money a way to get started, and if you’re a due-diligence, hardened veteran, you’ll find inspiration with the best thinkers and businesses in the field.
|Sovereign Crisp Cider, a farm-to-tap American hard apple cider.|
|Hawthorne Valley Farm’s sauerkraut cellar makes eight naturally fermented organic products.|
|The Pickled Planet team.|
Here’s how the Slow Money Gatheround works:
1. Learn, Share, Fund: A New Way to Support Small Food Businesses
Gatheround is a live online event, your chance to engage with a
cutting edge thought leader and a handful of small food entrepreneurs
who are leading the charge in the food movement and building
principled early-stage companies. Think: a TED-style talk about a food
sector + a pitch-fest by food entrepreneurs in that sector +
interactive Q & A participation.
2. Life After Fast Food and Fast Money
By supporting small food entrepreneurs, we are doing more than
supporting grain mills and creameries and seed companies and CSAs and
microbreweries and grass fed beef producers and cheesemongers and
niche organic brands. We are building a new economy, a restorative
economy. We are taking a little of our money from there–the world of
fast money and fast food–and putting it to work here–near where we
live, in things that we understand, that directly improve our quality
of life– starting with food.
3. You Donate To Us, We Loan to the Entrepreneur of your Choice
Your $25+ fee for a login to the Gatheround is a tax deductible
donation. After listening to the entrepreneur presentations, you
direct us to send those dollars to the entrepreneur of your choice. We
do this as a 0% loan and when it gets repaid we recycle those dollars
into the pool for Slow Money’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award, which
is given, by popular vote, at Slow Money National Gatherings. By
keeping the money cycling this way, small donations can add up to big
4. A low-cost way to put Slow Money principles into action
Around the country, in Slow Money gatherings large and small, many of
you have said, “I want to get involved, but I don’t know much about
investing. Where do I even start?” Gatheround is a way to get started.
Slow Money Principle 1 is: “We must bring money back down to earth.”
Gatheround is your way to join thousands of folks around the country
who are working, via Slow Money chapters, investment clubs, and
regional and national events, to do just that.
Slow Money Gatheround, “Live and Fermented Foods,” 11 a.m. (MST) Oct. 22
We hope you’ll join us for our first Slow Money Gatheround, featuring Sandor Katz, the best-selling author of “Wild Fermentation,” and four of the best live food businesses from the Slow Money network. To sign up or get more information, check out the Slow Money Gatheround website. We look forward to gathering with you!
—Jake Bornstein, Slow Money Senior Associate
By Sandor Ellix Katz
Little could I have imagined, as a New York City kid who loved pickles, that those delicious, crunchy, garlicky sour pickles would lead me on such an extraordinary journey of discovery and exploration. In fact, products of fermentation—not only pickles, but also bread, cheese, yogurt, sour cream, salami, vinegar, soy sauce, chocolate, and coffee, as well as beer and wine—were prominent in my family’s diet (as they are in many, if not most, people’s), though we never talked about them as such.
Yet, as my path through life led me to various nutritional ideas and dietary experiments, I did learn about the digestive benefits of bacteria present in living fermented foods and began to experience their restorative powers. And when I found myself with a garden, faced with a surplus of cabbages and radishes, sauerkraut beckoned me. Our love affair endures.
|Sandor Ellix Katz teaching a fermentation class.|
The first time I taught a sauerkraut-making workshop, at the Sequatchie Valley Institute in 1999, I learned that there is a tremendous fear in our culture of aging food outside of refrigeration. In our time, most people are raised to view bacteria as dangerous enemies and refrigeration as a household necessity. The idea of leaving food outside of refrigeration in order to encourage bacterial growth triggers fears of danger, disease, and even death. “How will I know whether the right bacteria are growing?” is a common question. People largely assume that for microbial transformations to be safe, they require extensive knowledge and control and are therefore a specialized domain best left to experts.
Most food and beverage fermentation processes are ancient rituals that humans have been performing since before the dawn of history, yet we have largely relegated them to factory production. Fermentation has mostly disappeared from our households and communities. Techniques evolved by disparate human cultures over millennia, through observation of natural phenomena and manipulating conditions with trial and error, have become obscure and are in danger of being lost.
I have spent nearly two decades exploring the realm of fermentation. I do not have a background in microbiology or food science; I am just a food-loving back-to-the-land generalist who became obsessed with fermentation, spurred by a voracious appetite, a practical desire for food not to go to waste, and a willful desire to maintain good health. I have experimented widely, talked to many, many people about the subject, and done a lot of reading on it. The more I experiment and the more I learn, the more I realize how little of an expert I remain. People grow up in households in which some of these traditional ferments are the daily context, and their knowledge is far more intimate. Others become commercial manufacturers and develop technical mastery in order to produce and market consistent and profitable products; countless such people know much more than I about brewing beer, making cheese, baking bread, curing salamis, or brewing saké. Microbiologists or other scientists who study very specific facets of the genetics, metabolism, kinetics, community dynamics, or other mechanisms of fermentations understand it all in terms I can only barely comprehend.
|Vessels full of kimchi in Seoul, Korea. Photo by Jessica Leo.
Nor do I possess anything approaching encyclopedic knowledge of fermentation. The infinite variation that exists in how people on every continent ferment all the various foods they eat is too vast for any individual to have comprehensive knowledge. However, I have had the privilege to hear a lot of wonderful stories, and taste many homemade and artisan-fermented concoctions. Many readers of my books, visitors to my website, and participants in my workshops have recounted tales of their grandparents’ fermentation practices; immigrants have excitedly told me about ferments from the old country, often lost to them through migration; travelers have reported on ferments they have encountered; people have divulged their quirky family variations; and other experimentalists such as myself have shared their adventures. I have also fielded thousands of troubleshooting questions, causing me to research and think about many more aspects of the inevitable variations that occur in home fermentations.
One word that repeatedly comes to the fore in my exploration and thinking about fermentation is culture. Fermentation relates to culture in many different ways, corresponding with the many layers of meaning embedded in this important word, from its literal and specific meanings in the context of microbiology to its broadest connotations. We call the starters that we add to milk to make yogurt, or to initiate any fermentation, cultures. Simultaneously, culture constitutes the totality of all that humans seek to pass from generation to generation, including language, music, art, literature, scientific knowledge, and belief systems, as well as agriculture and culinary techniques, in both of which fermentation occupies a central role.
—Excerpt adapted from “The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World” (Chelsea Green, 2012) by Sandor Ellix Katz. Katz shares his fermenting expertise online at 11 a.m. MST Oct. 22 during our first Slow Money Gatheround.
Social capital investor Joel Solomon says Slow Money helps people understand how money can be used in a soulful way to help build the economic changes we need. Click above to find out more. Solomon is the chairman for Renewal Funds and president and CEO of Renewal. Please send us your own Slow Money Minute telling us what “bringing money back down to earth” means to you and how what you do in the world dovetails with the Slow Money principles and vision.
Reported by Bren Ames.
Equity-based crowdfunding platform launched, Web portal pending, exploring revolving loan fund.
Slow Money Georgia is soon launching slowmoneyga.org, a website that offers three feature columns—Shovel Ready, Slow Money Principles, and On the Food Commons.
Slow Money Georgia co-leader Donata Defilippi, Ph.D., continues to wear both Slow Money and Slow Food hats in her role organizing Field of Greens, an on-farm annual fundraiser for deserving farmers through Slow Food Atlanta. Field of Greens 2013 was held Oct. 6.
|Fertile Crescent Steering Committee planning retreat, Day 1: “Building a Local Economy,” September 2013.
Coyote Creek Farm and Organic Feed Mill has formed a Georgia enterprise and raised sufficient capital to build a regional organic feed mill. Coyote Creek’s successful Texas feed mill is strengthening other regional food enterprises, spawning new ventures and enabling the transition of conventional farmland to organic production. Nurture capital from Slow Money-aligned lenders and investors helped grow the Texas mill and continues to be the preferred and primary source of capital; Coyote Creek will construct a feed mill and begin Georgia operations in the first quarter of 2014.
Coyote Creek has agreed to be Slow Money Georgia’s poster child, helping us convey to others the benefits of starting with the soil and setting a high bar for ecologically sound production of quality food. By crowdfunding the next stage of Coyote Creek’s expansion in Georgia, we can invite a broad range of Georgians to become part of Coyote Creek’s development and success, and bootstrap a nurture capital loan fund that will serve other food system enterprises in Georgia.
Slow Money Georgia is exploring strategies for co-developing a revolving loan fund focused through a Slow Money lens with a mission-aligned CDFI partner (similar to Slow Money Pacific Northwest’s Farmer Reserve Fund). While the loan-loss reserve and startup will be established through philanthropy, the loan fund will be set up to enable Georgians to individually and collectively lend to Georgians who nurture the food system, providing loan principal through term deposits. Existing sources of CDFI loan funds are typically the SBA, USDA, U.S. Treasury, banks and foundations.
If you haven’t yet read trailblazer Judy Wicks’ new book “Good Morning, Beautiful Business: The Unexpected Journey of an Activist and Local Economy Pioneer” (Chelsea Green, April 2013), then do yourself a huge favor and order it now. Judy, founder of the legendary White Dog Café, is a gifted storyteller (there was no ghostwriter here!) who skillfully crafted a riveting, colorful and soulful memoir that is guaranteed to inspire. Judy’s life demonstrates beautifully how we all may follow both mind and heart, cultivate lasting relationships with each other and the planet, and build a new, compassionate economy. Plus, have a whole lot of fun along the way. Check it out.
National Public Radio: Here and Now
Burlington Free Press
Chronogram: Arts, Culture, Spirit
Acres of U.S. farmland in 2012: 914 million
Average acres of U.S. farmland devoted to growing pickling cucumbers: 112,000
Increase in U.S. per capita use of fresh-market cucumbers from 2010 to 2012: 1 lb.
Percentage increase in U.S. farm value of cucumber production from 2010 to 2012: 29
Annual sales of fermented foods on a global basis: $1 trillion-plus
Percentage of all foods consumed that are fermented: 33
Body’s ratio of bacterial cells to human cells: 10:1
Number of bacteria species harbored by the human body: 100 trillion
Optimal mix of gut microbes: 85 percent good bacteria, 15 percent bad
Body weight of microbial bodies: 2 lbs.
Beneficial bacteria per 500ml of yogurt: 1.5 trillion
Beneficial bacteria per 500ml of kefir: 5 trillion
Percentage of genetic similarity shared with other people: 99
Percentage difference in bacteria between two people: 90
pH of a fermented kombucha: about 2.5
Percentage increase in kombucha sales at U.S. grocery stores from 2011 to 2012: 36
Amount of kimchi the average South Korean adult consumes per day: ¼ lb.
Tons of kimchi South Koreans consume per year: 1.6 million
Approximate tons of kimchi Americans consume per year: 16,000
Pounds of cabbage grown per year in the U.S.: 330 million
Pounds of sauerkraut Americans consume per year: 387 million
Beneficial bacteria per cup of Bubbies sauerkraut: 711,000
Percentage difference of vitamin C in sauerkraut and fresh cabbage: 10 to 20
Percentage difference in protein between natural cassava and fermented cassava: 6.75
Approximate number of times the average American household purchases pickles per year: 7
Number of pickles it would take to reach the moon: 4 billion
Number of documented cases of pickles that caused food poisoning: 0