Who writes these posts?

Carol Peppe Hewitt is the co-founder and principal matchmaker of Slow Money NC – and author of Financing Our Foodshed: Growing Local Food with Slow Money.
She writes these occasional blog entries.

They tell of her adventures catalyzing peer-to-peer loans, and of traipsing around the country promoting all things local.

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Posted in financing our foodshed

Slow Money for a mill, a bakery and then – more mills!

Boulted Bread

Editor’s note: This article appears in the Winter 2016/17 issue of the national Slow Money Journal.

When Sam Kirkpatrick and Fulton Forde got together to open their bakery, Boulted Bread, in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, they had an ambitious goal. They wanted to use fresh-milled, locally sourced grain and improve the design of currently available commercial stone mills. Fulton had traveled in Europe and North America learning from bakers who use heirloom grains and researching various age-old mill designs, and creating a plan for a new type of stone mill using locally quarried, natural granite and American-made motors and parts.

The current consumer market, Sam and Fulton believed, was “shifting away from inexpensive conventional practices and beginning to value high quality and process.” Their business would honor this shift toward intentional consumerism and serve the growing number of people interested in sustainably produced food in the greater Triangle area of North Carolina. Their customers would experience “the inherent value, sublime flavors, and simple elegance of bread as craft.”

A Slow Money lender provided $3,000 to cover the construction of a custom stone mill that was more effective, more attractive, and less expensive by thousands of dollars than the few other commercial mills available. Another Slow Money loan for $10,000 covered build-out costs, and Boulted Bread opened for business in August 2014. Sam and Fulton added another partner to the team, Josh Bellamy, who brought along excellent baking experience and a shared philosophy.

Carol Peppe Hewitt and Fulton Forde

The bakery supports numerous local farmers by purchasing heirloom varieties of Southern grain that might be otherwise unavailable or lost, as well as vegetables, eggs, milk, and cheese for their breads and pastries. And they have hundreds of happy consumers. “Bread respects and pays tribute to all the players—farmer, miller, baker, and consumer,” Fulton explains. “Many of our customers are avid home cooks,” Sam told me, “and our moist, naturally leavened, seeded levain is something they can’t find anywhere else.”

Their business has been so successful that they paid off the smaller Slow Money loan two years early. “Our lenders were thrilled for the opportunity to help us get started and proud of us for paying it all back so soon,” said Sam. “We are enormously grateful.”

“My next project,” Fulton shares, “is building stone mills for sale to the public. I first wanted to build a mill when I worked at Farm & Sparrow in Candler, North Carolina. We used a German-made mill that allowed us to use a wide variety of locally sourced grains, but it had many shortcomings. There is an American mill-building company, but their mills also often leave people disappointed and dissatisfied.”

So, he investigated possible design improvements that could make the mill both much more effective and user friendly. He traveled around North America to research mills new and old, and slowly his ideal mill design emerged.

“I built a 26-inch stone mill for a small grain farm in California, another for Boulted Bread, and a third for Farm & Sparrow, to replace the German mill on which I first learned about milling,” Fulton explained. “There is a nascent local-grain movement seeking to extricate grain from the industrial model and in desperate need of high-quality American-made mills. I had orders from four bakers and two mill/grain projects. I began construction on the first three mills ordered. We needed $12,000 to help finance these orders. We planned to pay the money back in 18 months or less.”

Two Slow Money NC lenders who are frequent customers at Boulted Bread made loans of $9,000 and $3,000, and New American Stone Mills is on its way.

Fulton's Stone Mill

Fulton is now collaborating with Andrew Heyn, owner of Elmore Mountain Bread in Vermont, to offer a larger, 40-inch stone mill for use in medium-production bakeries or specialty gristmills.

Farmers are planting more heirloom grain varieties, local milling is growing, and for us eaters, the bread and pastries just keep getting better— for the planet and for us.

Want to learn more about how you can help ‘bring money back down to earth’ ? Join the  Slow Money NC mailing list here. 

Posted in financing our foodshed, Slow Food, Slow Money NC updates, Slow Money Stories, Sustainable Agriculture, sustainable grains

An interview with Frank Stasio

IMG_3454A while back I had the good fortune to talk with Frank Stasio, host of the NPR show, The State of Things. Frank is a thoughtful interviewer, and a fan of Slow Money. He was also instrumental in the opening of the Durham Coop in 2015 in Durham, NC.

Here is the link to the interview.

Thank you, Frank – for the interview, and for all you do to make our community a much better place to live.

Posted in Community Finance, financing our foodshed, Press, Slow Money Stories | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Slow Money NC Visits Elon

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Slow Money NC Visits Elon.

Posted in Slow Food, Slow Money NC updates, Slow Money outreach | Tagged , , , , ,

Running On Local and Relentless Touring

Our Southeast four-day tour of “Running On Local” launched at the Virginia Key GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance,  just over the bridge from South Miami to Key Biscayne, on February 22th, 2013.

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OK, so this is not us. It’s Adrienne Mack-Davis, the “best find” of the festival for me. She sang in a stage across from us later that evening.
Stunning. Track that girl down. http://www.amackdavis.com/amackdavis/Home.html

On Saturday and Sunday afternoon we held court at the Sustainability Tent to talk about the re-localizing movement, and whatever else came up.

The Saturday discussion encouraged two sisters to follow their dream and start a kale farm on their father-in-law’s property which had gone dormant and was just waiting for their spark, their initiative.  They left ready and able to make it happen.

On Sunday we helped an urban window-sill gardener (a recent transplant from Russia, via Germany to Miami) find sources for heirloom varieties, and that was just one of several simultaneous fascinating conversations.

On Monday we moved on to Orlando for a fabulous evening with John Rife at East End Market and then for supper at the delightful Atherton Market, which you can read about in Lyle’s delightful entry in Energy Blog.

Then we found our way to Savannah, Ga. This was the ‘odd ball’ on our four-day book tour. This “Running on Local’ conversation was taking us from Miami, FL back to Pittsboro, NC, via Orlando and the coast of South Carolina.

IMG_0233Every evening was booked weeks in advance. Except one – Tuesday, February 25th.

It fell between Orlando and Beaufort, SC – and Savannah, GA would have been perfect.

First I began searching in the local food/local economy space. I looked for friends on Facebook and LinkedIn. I googled every phrase about “local and Savannah” I could think of, but found nothing.  There had once been an active Slow Food chapter, but their Facebook page said they were looking for new leadership.

It was down to the last week before heading South, and I had gotten nowhere.

Then I came acIMG_0232ross my 2014 National Green Pages. Published by Green America, it comes every year, and I have never known quite what to do with it. But that day I checked the index and discovered two listings in Savannah.

The most promising was a coffee shop called The Sentient Bean. Checking their website, I discovered they have live acoustic music, and there was an online form to request to play there.

Perfect.

So I filled it in.

“We’re not a band,” I wrote, “but we’re a dynamic duo that promote local economy. We share success stories and get a lively discussion going on how to do all things local – local food, local finance, local fuel. Carol is a pioneer in the Slow Money movement, and Lyle is a maverick in the alternative fuel space. Both have written books and are great speakers. “

Then I quoted Lyle.

“In a world of doom and gloom,” remarks Estill, “where financial instruments are too complex to understand, and money moves at the speed of light, where governments are struggling to take action, and individuals are at the mercy of faceless global corporations, there are ways to localize all aspects of your life. We know. We’ve done it, and you can too.”

I filled in all the contact information, added a Facebook link to one of other events, and went to bed. The next day I found a reply in my inbox from Kristin Russell, the owner of Sentient Bean.

“Hi Carol,

We’d love to host your tour and I think we’d be a good venue.  Joemy is our events manager and she is cc’d at the email above. She will contact you soon to coordinate.  I’m afraid I’ll be out of town, which saddens me as I’m very interested in this topic but I’ll help promote it through the farmers’ market and the local food policy council I’m involved with.

Thank you,
Kristin”

Wow. Fabulous. I had struck gold, and great coffee. But the date we were coming through town was now only 6 days away! I didn’t hear from Joemy that day, and I was getting anxious. Then I got a reply. It took a few emails back and forth to confirm the date and time, but we had a booking!

“Good morning Carol,

Alright, you are confirmed for Tuesday Feb 25 at 5pm. I will post it on our website and include it in our events newsletter and events calendar. You are welcome to use the attached press contact sheet to send out the press release.

Please send the link to your facebook event page, and I will share via facebook as well.
Thanks,
Joemy”

IMG_0190By now February 25th was only 4 days out, and I was already at the GrassRoots Festival in Miami!

But I found a quiet spot, got online and went to work. Out went the Press Release to all those media outlets, and Joemy got that Facebook link.

On February 24th we rolled into Savannah. I warned Lyle that we might be the only ones at this gig, but we went on in and confidently set up a table displaying our books. Lyle made friends with an innocent guy on a couch visiting from Missouri, and cajoled him into joining us. That gave us an audience of one.

Then they started to arrive. Two elegant white-haired men who helped start a local farmers market, and Teri, fellow founder and market manager. Folks from the Savannah Urban Garden Alliance. A young woman interested in organic farming, a landscape architect, and a woman in town from Toronto who paid Lyle for a book in Canadian currency. We added an extra table, then another, then another, to fit in about a dozen movers and shakers in the local food scene.

Running On Local Savannah big jpgTo the roaring of the coffee grinder we managed a fabulous conversation. We got a sense of the local economy movement in Savannah, and we shared what we thought might be helpful.

We sold a few books, and we made an appointment to go check out Thinc Savannah, a cooperative office space, the next morning.  Out of that meeting came an offer to bring us back to town for a longer program, possibly as part of a day-long conference in May.

We left Savannah enthralled by the people and the places we had seen.

Lyle says “relentless touring” is the only way you make it as a performer. That means no nights off when you are on the road.  No skipping Savannah.

I was pretty pleased with myself for pulling that gig out of my hat. But once I found Kristen, she really earned much of the credit. And then there was that National Green Pages, thanks to Green America.

I have been a loyal member of Green America since back in the 70’s. when it was Coop America. It’s no surprise that they know everyone who’s anyone! Next time I’ll remember to look there first.

The day of the event I had got another email from Kristin:

“Hi Carol,
I’ve promoted via the Farmers’ Market, the local community radio folks, the coffee party, and a couple other progressive social groups.  I just posted the poster on the Bean’s Facebook (I think!) which is the first time I’ve ever done that:) I hope you have a great, fun crowd and I’m sure I’ll run into you soon somewhere.  Thank you so much for finding us!

Kristin”

And thank you, Kristen.

All that effort for a couple of sustainability vagabonds who were coming through town? Impressive – and I’m grateful.

Kristen is clearly a powerful networker in her community, and I look forward to meeting her. She has a delightful, welcoming coffee shop that serves as a meeting space for folks like us.

Lyle says we got the gig by my “sheer force of will.”  I say we are all longing for a more resilient local economy, and when we find each other, we make good stuff happen.

Thank you Savannah.

I hope to be back in your town again soon.

Posted in Community Finance, Running On Local, Sustainable Agriculture | Tagged , , , ,

Running On Local – Success Stories for a New Paradigm

by Carol Peppe Hewitt

We rode the wave of progress and by the end of the 20th century our stores had filled up with ‘stuff’ from all over the world – as had our kitchen cabinets, and our bodies. Tangerines from Spain, dresses from Bangladesh and appliances from Japan. We burned through millions of barrels of fuel from the Middle East, and gave up control of our life savings to a globalized stock market.

It all seemed harmless enough, and in exchange we got so much choice! So many creature comforts, and a promise that it would only get better and better.

But that wave turned out to be a tsunami, and while globalization has merit, it has come with unforeseen risks and costs to our psyche, to our health, to our planet’s ability to sustain life, and thus to our resilience as a species.

Today we are seeing a new wave, a new perspective on progress. One that is less extractive of our planet’s finite resources, and that reconnects us to home.

The new paradigm is to re-localize – to get “Running On Local.” Local food, local fuel, local finance, local friendships, local fun, and more.

In 2010 I heard an idea, espoused by Woody Tasch, author of Inquiries Into the Nature of Slow Money, of moving money into the hands of local sustainable farmers and the local food businesses that support them. It seemed we could make affordable loans to those folks who had a viable need for capital – money that banks and other conventional sources would not lend. I tried it and it worked. I’ve made several Slow Money loans and it has been a blast. I can stop by a farmers market, or Angelina’s Kitchen, a small Greek restaurant that serves local food, and I can visit with the friends I have helped. I can see that my small, low-interest loan has made a difference in their success. It’s heartening and hopeful.

In the last three and a half years I have helped facilitate over 115 of these direct, peer-to-peer loans in North Carolina from about 80 different lenders to 55 farmers and food entrepreneurs. Many of those loans are already paid off. They total about 1.2 million dollars and they have kept people employed in their own businesses, put more local food in our stores and restaurants, preserved small farms, and strengthened local economies. It’s brilliant and simple. We can do this in communities all over the US and beyond.

In our little town of Pittsboro, in rural North Carolina, we are “walking the walk” – with several farmers markets, a growing number of CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) and our very our coop grocery store, Chatham Marketplace. The Marketplace is now entirely financed with money from local citizens. We have a community scale biodiesel plant, a two-year program in Sustainability at our local community college, and a local currency.

ImageWe have stories to tell. Fellow New Society Publishers author and sustainability activist, Lyle Estill, and I have created “Running On Local,” a sustainability roadshow to promote the merits of all things local. We are sharing those success stories and helping other communities to re-localize.

“In a world of gloom and doom,” says Lyle Estill, author of three books on biodiesel and most recently of Small Stories, Big Changes: Agents of Change on the Forefront of Sustainability, “where financial instruments are too complex to understand, and money moves at the speed of light, where governments are struggling to take action, and individuals are at the mercy of faceless global corporations, there are ways to localize all aspects of your life.”

He should know. He runs Piedmont Biofuels, one of the few surviving community-scale biofuel operations in the Southeast, turning waste cooking oil into about one million gallons of B100 biofuel each year.

“Localizing?” Estill goes on to say. “We’ve done it. We’ve empowered ourselves, and others. We’ve written about our experiences, and we are happy to share them with you. We have practical ideas you can use in Anytown, USA. We spread hope.”

Together Lyle and I are going on the road to host powerful conversations in communities up and down the East Coast. We are taking our “Running On Local” message  from Miami and Orlando, FL to Savannah, GA, and then on to Beaufort and Charleston, SC before heading up to Washington DC, NYC and Western MA.

Here are our current tour dates:
Monday, February 24th, East End Market, 5:30 – 7:30PM, Orlando, FL
Tuesday, February 25th, Sentient Bean, 5 – 6:30PM, Sentient Bean, Savannah, GA
Wednesday, February 26th, PANINI’S On The Waterfront, 5:30-7:30PM, Beaufort, SC
Thursday, February 27th, Jericho Advisors and Art Gallery, 5:30-7:30PM, Charleston, SC

Wednesday, March 19th, Café Saint-Ex, 7-9PM, Washington, DC
Thursday, March 20th,  Brooklyn, NY
Saturday, March 22nd, Greenfield, MA

You can also confirm locations, dates and times, as well as new dates being added at: http://financingourfoodshed.com/book-appearances/

Image 1 Come find us, or invite us to your area to help re-localize your community as well!

We look forward to your joining us in this important conversation.

Posted in Running On Local | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Solar Sheep Farming

Solar farms are cropping up all over NC, in fact, all across the globe. And while they are an excellent idea – harvesting energy from the sun – they create an interesting conundrum.

If they are built in a typical field, how does one keep the grasses and weeds from growing up under and around them? Because as soon as the plant material blocks any part of the solar array, it stops producing electricity.

One answer could be to mow, but this is difficult, and might well require more energy usage than the solar farm produces. A net loss of energy makes little sense.

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A tote of Roundup to kills the weeds along the fence line.

Another lousy option is to spray the fields heavily with toxic chemicals. Clean energy at the expense of fertile soils. Strike two.

But there is another option.

How about putting sheep on the fields to eat down the grasses and other plants? Another example of solar double cropping – a concept piloted so brilliantly by Lyle Estill and Michael Tiemann at the Piedmont Eco-industrial Plant in Pittsboro, NC. The solar panels on that site are so elevated that they can even farm underneath them.

Turns out that this sheep option is exactly what is being tried in Mt Airy at Jimmy Mundy’s farm, and soon, in many other locations as well. Solar companies might not want to get into sheep farming, but they can, and are, collaborating with farmers to do this for them.

Lyle and I visited Jimmy Mundy and his sheep that were grazing under a 25 acre solar farm belonging to O2 Energies about a week ago. He has a buyer for all the sheep he can grow and process – up to 35 a week – which is way more than he is raising now.

But to efficiently increase his sheep production he needs a piece of equipment that holds the animal and flips it upside down, so he and his son can quickly clean the hooves. “Every animal has an Achilles’ Heel,” he explained. “With sheep it’s their feet. They need to be cleaned. The last time we did our flock it took my son and I three days. With this piece of equipment we can do them all in a morning.”

Enter Slow Money NC.

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Lyle is enamored with all things relating to clean energy, and he was quick to step forward to make Jimmy a loan. The terms are $5000 at low-interest, as is the rule for Slow Money loans made in NC. Jimmy plans to make quarterly payments and get Lyle paid back in just one year. He plans to add another 100 head or so to adequately keep the plants down on this site, and even then it will not be a perfect solution. Sheep like the small young shoots and unless they are really hungry, will pass on much of the taller, woodier weeds.

But it is a move in the right direction. Along the crucial trajectory where we keep lowering our carbon footprint, and finding out of the box solutions that preserve a healthy planet for future generations. I suspect this is just the beginning of Slow Money’s role in funding solar sheep farming.

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Thanks go to our good friend and Project Engineer at O2 Energies, Rebekah Hren. She told Jimmy about Slow Money and she told us about Jimmy.

It just goes to show, that yet again, Slow Money isn’t really about the money. It’s about the people. Farmers, lenders, local food processors and vendors, people who will eat locally raised lamb, and of course the hundreds of folks that can now turn on their lights, tapping the boundless energy coming from the sun.

Posted in Slow Food