Nutritious returns on investments

Slow Money founder: Supporting neighbors helps the environment

Buying local food has become a hip, national movement. It even has its own monicker: locavorism.

The movement clearly is evident in Durango with organizations such as Local First, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting locally owned businesses, and the Sustainability Alliance of Southwest Colorado.

The two organizations collaborated to bring Woody Tasch to Durango. Tasch is the founder of Slow Money, a movement striving to connect investors and donors with small food enterprises, organic farms and local food systems.

The movement was named one of five financing trends for 2011 by Entrepreneur magazine.

“We brought him in as part of the Eat Local Celebration that we’ve been working on,” said LeeAnn Vallejos, executive director of Local First. “I think people are interested in learning more about this concept and the idea of local investing. I think that’s something that intrigues a lot of individuals.”

Tasch gave a presentation about Slow Money to a packed room at the Durango Public Library on Wednesday, coincidently after Michelle Obama gave a speech at Fort Lewis College.

The first lady has been a large proponent of eating local, fresh food.

Tasch had one simple question for the audience: What if a million Americans invested 1 percent of their money into local food systems within a decade?

His argument is money moves too quickly around the world, and investors don’t see where their money goes. When investors put money into their local communities, they see it at work.

“Putting our money to work with our neighbors promotes a healthy community,” Tasch told the audience. “A lot of us have to do a little of something.”

One of the biggest reasons to invest in local food is it’s better for the environment, he said.

“The (food) system is good at creating cheap calories,” Tasch said. “Our success at growing cheap food has come at a long-term cost.”

Local foodie and owner of Linda’s Local Cafe, Linda Illsley, agreed, saying: “We need to start functioning as a society. We are destroying everything in the pursuit of food.”

Slow Money has raised more than $20 million that has been invested in 165 small food enterprises around the states, according to a Slow Money fact sheet given out at the presentation.

The nonprofit has a variety of ways for locals to get involved, such as investment clubs where a group of people each donate $5,000 and vote as a group about where the money should be invested.

“I felt (the presentation) was inspiring and doable,” said David Cantrell, who attended the talk with his wife and daughter. “It’s about accepting personal responsibility.”

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