Thursday, December 8, 2011

Keep Your Food Money Local

This is my article for the November Go Green! column I write every month in The Denver News, a local newspaper.

Keep Your Food Money Local

Silvana Vukadin-Hoitt

Although I am a contributing writer to The Denver News, I also work as an advocate of sustainable urban agriculture through a local nonprofit organization named Feed Denver: Urban Farms & Markets.
Feed Denver’s mission is to teach people how to grow food in the city and make urban farming viable and profitable. It is no secret that our current food system, with it’s over processed products and reliance on industrial animal farming is no longer sustaining us in a healthful manner. We have become a nation of fast food connoisseurs and the news has spread in recent years that fast food is making us fat and sick. Advertisers spend billions to convince us that we don’t have to ‘waste time in the kitchen’ and that faster is better. They make a lot of money pushing that message into our consciousness day in and day out. And it is our money they are convincing us to spend.
We spend our money buying food from industries and corporations that do not have the infrastructure or the mission to care whether what they sell us will make us ill in the long run or not. In supporting their businesses we have willingly let them rob us of our food culture - once rich in diversity and simple goodness. Every day I hear someone say about some food product “it used to taste better”. Well, this is the reason for that.

I don’t believe that faster is better. I believe that slow is good. Slow down to smell the roses, the coffee, the earth and soil around us. Slow down to get in touch with nature. Food is nature. Not industry.

So what do we do if we want change? My mom always says that in order to change the world you start with yourself and your family. You make sure that you take care of those closest to you and you extend that to your neighbors and then your village. The ripple effect of investing in what and who is important and will resonate to the rest of the world by proxy. This brings me to the Slow Money movement.

Slow Money is a concept that ties together the food system, our economy and local entrepreneurship. Created by visionary economist Woody Tasch, it is a movement that is rapidly gaining attention all over the country as well as in Colorado. It has been named “One of the top five trends in finance for 2011” by Slow Money ideas are rooted in philanthropy and local investing, specifically advocating investment in agriculture, small farms, regional food processing and distribution, local and organic restaurants and individuals or organizations dedicated to educating about how to grow good food.
Slow money is about patient capital, socially responsible and local investment. While at the Slow Money conference in San Francisco last month we I met quite a few interesting people. There were investors, farmers, activists, educators, business men and women and people interested in learning about it all.
Together with Lisa Rogers, Executive Director of Feed Denver and Michael Brownlee, of Transition Colorado, both Slow Money proponents I listened to Wes Jackson, founder and president of The Land Institute, who has written several books on sustainability and the viability of new agriculture.
One of the most interesting and charming speakers was Mr. John Bledsoe, who with his son, raises pigs on a farm outside Woodland, California without using antibiotics or growth hormones. He was straight forward about why he raises his animals the way he does: “Because it tastes better”. He also mentioned that his advertising budget is “exactly zero dollars”. Since his meat is ‘good and clean’, his customers come to him by word of mouth advertising. An enviable position. But not, as I realized during the three days of the convention, one that is so uncommon anymore.

All of the small businesses that presented that weekend were convinced that they experienced growth because of their commitment to sustainable practices and because local people bought and supported their products. Think about bringing you food money home. Slow Money suggests to moving just one percent to projects and businesses near you. These will be projects and businesses you can also get involved with, volunteer at and mentor. I put more than one percent into local food through my advocacy with Feed Denver and their programs dedicated to making urban farming profitable.
I volunteer my time and I invest my resources in these programs which ultimately create jobs in underserved communities, with refugee communities and also budding entrepreneurs.

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