Slow Money Gathering at Fort Mason SF CA
I am energized after attending the final day of the Slow Money Gathering last Friday at the beautiful Fort Mason Center in San Francisco. Listening to the excellent presentations and talking with other attendees reaffirmed my suspicion that innovative solutions to make our nation’s food systems environmentally sustainable, fair, and ethical, are best developed at the grassroots level in diverse areas of the country.

More and more committed individuals are implementing numerous small creative projects across the nation; Slow Money founder Woody Tasch explains the growing sustainable revolution like this:

“We are moving from big idea to lots of small actions. Our success is built on relationships — individuals with shared values and vision, connected via local and national networks, learning together, collaborating, co-creating a healthy culture and healthy economy.”

Key speakers delivered short presentations highlighting their specific messages and areas of action. Chris Martenson, an economic researcher and futurist and author of Crash Course, made the simple point that our economy is based on growth and growth is no longer occurring as it has in the past, saying “the next twenty years will be different from the last twenty”. Energy and other resources are depleted and running out; without energy, the economy can not grow.

Rob Davenport Slow Money Gathering 2011

Rob Davenport directs an investment firm that advocates for job creation with social benefits

But Martenson does not necessarily believe that the future will be a catastrophe. He was careful to say that he is not a survivalist, but a “thrive-alist”. He has an optimistic view that now is the time and an opportunity to create a vision for the future. When asked for solutions he didn’t hesitate to say that there has to be a re-localization of our strategies: in the future we have to be more efficient and use what we have more intelligently. Martenson said it would be useful to have a national vision for economic change, but in the meantime, communities are making up their own visions for the future.

As an example, Robert Davenport, Managing Director of Brightpath Capital Partners in nearby Oakland, said that his mission is to “shift the way capital is applied to opportunity”. His investment firm seeks to enable job creation “with the impact of social benefits” that will sustain the community by being a profitable business.

One of his current projects is to find a solution to the need for appropriate animal processing for growers of organic, grass-fed, livestock. This is a pressing need for small livestock farmers who need to have their animals humanely slaughtered and packaged for their markets. There is a dire lack of this type of butcher, due in part to regulations intended for large industrial operations, as explained to me by Paula Manolo, of Mendocino Organics.

Davenport sees this as a barrier to providing access to healthy and humane meat to the community, but as an opportunity for a business venture for a valuable service that will enable alternatives to factory farmed meat for the community. This is a logical fit with Oakland’s emerging food networks that are focused on local producers.

Next in my series inspired by the Slow Money Gathering:

Alternative food networks and food hubs.

Slow Money

Photos by Urban Artichoke