On November 1st, 2011 we refinanced our biggest loan by far – 398k for the Chatham Marketplace, a much-loved coop grocery store in Pittsboro, NC that sells lots of local foods. We called it “Bringing It Home Chatham” because that’s what we did! Sixteen folks participated and reduced the coop’s monthly loan by a third. This was the first project of it’s kind and we hope to do more of them.
Here is a story Carol wrote about this project for the Chatham Marketplace newsletter…
When Paul Finkel, a member of the Chatham Marketplace’s Finance Committee suggested at our first ever Slow Money NC gathering at the General Store Café in Pittsboro that we finance the 300K balloon payment coming due at the Chatham Marketplace, it sounded preposterous.
A few weeks earlier, on May 20, 2010, Woody Tasch, author of Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money, had spoken at Central Carolina Community College and suggested we move a mere 1% of the money that was going to Wall Street and instead invest it in our local food economies. The results, he predicted, would be extraordinary. It was a brilliant idea. The challenge was to figure out how this could be done.
We had an idea. Financing ourselves is something we are not very good as a community. But we could change that. We could make small, low-interest loans to local sustainable farmers and local food businesses that needed capital for projects the banks would never finance, but that would make a huge difference in helping these farms and businesses succeed and flourish.
So we did. The first loan was for a bread-mixer, $2000. The next two helped a local restaurant expand for $3000 each. Then we went looking for more people that would want to make loans like this, and businesses that could use their help.
We tucked ourselves under The Abundance Foundation to have non-profit status, and created a simple website. It included an online loan application, a pledge form for interested potential lenders, and pictures and stories about our borrowers. We networked at farmer’s markets, wrote about the new Slow Money Project in local media, and in the next year or so we made matches for another dozen loans, totaling over 60K.
When we were asked to bring our story to Southern Pines, Tarboro, Wilmington and Asheville we found both lenders and borrowers in the audience, resulting in several more loans and new emerging local Slow Money NC groups.
Then we found a way to fund that Chatham Marketplace loan. We found sixteen people to form “Bringing It Home Chatham, LLC” and we refinanced the Marketplace’s existing bank loan at a lower interest rate.
Chatham Marketplace’s monthly loan payments were reduced by a third, and we took a huge step forward in financing ourselves as a community. (I like to think of this as the first Occupy Pittsboro action.)
“Bringing It Home Chatham” is one of the first projects of its kind in the USA, and just the beginning of finding new and better ways to keep local food growing here in Chatham County and beyond.