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.
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.
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 across 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.
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.
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.
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.
By 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.
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:
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!
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.
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.
We 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/
We look forward to your joining us in this important conversation.
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.
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.
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.
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.
July 28th 11:30 pm
I have to say that was an incredible party. For days people have been asking me, “How many tickets have you sold? How many people do you think are coming?”
And I would venture a guess. “Last time I looked we had sold 80 tickets online.” But then there were all the emails from folks asking if they could pay at the door. And the Facebook event that said lots more were coming than had bought tickets.
But all that is unimportant now. Because the party is over.
Except not quite. There is a small child’s red flip flop on the back step, and a couple of knives that are not mine on the dish drain.
I have washed up the myriad of pottery plates we used to serve Angelina’s baklava and cookies, Celebrity Dairy’s cheeses, Joan’s chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies, Donna Bianco’s fresh cannolis, and the stack of bowls that served up local blueberries and cherry tomatoes donated from 3 local farms, and two huge platters that had been full of local sweet corn. And the sticky plates that had been stacked high with Mackenzie’s right-out-your-childhood rice krispie treats.
“I don’t bake,” she told me at the farmers market on Saturday. “But can I bring rice krispie treats?”
Darling, you can do anything you want to. You and Tucker showed up early, set up your tent, grills, and table, and spent the entire evening over a hot charcoal grill pushing out huge grilled barbecue chicken wings for the crowd. Then you hustled over to pair up with Tucker and run a splendidly entertaining live auction, all with a 5-month baby in the oven…then back to pack up your tent, table, coolers, grill, etc. before finally being the last to leave. Can you have anything at all that you ever ask from me? Why yes. You may.
Now, as I write this, at 11:46pm, the rain has started. It is pounding on the tin roof over my office. The dishes are done, and the kitchen is almost back to normal.
There are still 3 or 4 pop-up tents in the yard and field down by the barn, but they will be fine.
What a wonderful party. I spent my time running from cabin, to the barn, to the house, and back again. Replenishing desserts, or cheese, or calling out raffle winners. I kept getting glimpses of people that I would loved to have had a chance to talk with. To catch up on our lives or to talk about Slow Money. Sometimes I managed to get a hug, or a kiss, and a very fleeting conversation. But never more.
I met new people who had come to the event to talk to me about Slow Money. I hope they will try again. To some of my dearest friends I only managed a wave. But I can’t thank you enough for coming. For showing up at our very first Slow Money NC party and fundraiser.
I put this event in our success column.
First we ran out of name tags – I only bought 100. So I rustled up some more. Then we needed to get the PA in place so we could start calling out the raffle winners. About when we thought the auction was over, Amy stepped up and offered piano lessons, and then David offered fiddle lessons. The generosity just kept coming.
I got out-bid on a tennis lesson by one of the sweetest teen-agers in town, and I was in the barn helping a pottery customer and missed out on his younger brother’s blackberry pie. Maybe next time.
We were woefully disorganized about collecting money after the auction, but folks were very patient. Next year we will be better at this!
In truth, everyone who ventured out to our house and pottery tonight needs a note of thanks. Some came from over an hour away. I know. We never spoke, but I saw you from across the crowds.
I went back and finished cleaning the kitchen, then picked up a flashlight and took out the compost. “Too wet to woo,” came a call from a nearby tree.
A few hours earlier there were nearly 200 people in this yard, but now it’s just me, and the Barred Owl.
What a wonderful day.
Life just doesn’t get much better than this.
“somehow, i never thought it would be so hard to loan money to strangers with no security and almost no return”
When this email arrived I laughed out loud. Because the funniest things are those that are true, or at least mostly true.
Jeff, in his generosity, had heard about Slow Money and he approached me about finding a local farmer that might need capital. I gave him a couple of names and numbers, and he drove a few miles to meet with a farmer who lived near him, and he also spoke to another farmer who lived a few more miles away. He offered each of them a low-interest loan for equipment they said they needed. But, then – as it happened – they each found a way to get along without needing a Slow Money loan. Which meant that they didn’t need Jeff.
In the larger scheme of things, that’s great. Whenever possible the best course of action, especially for any small business owner, is to stay out of debt.
But Jeff is a willing potential Slow Money lender who cares deeply about the local food movement, and he’s having trouble finding someone to help. Luckily he is also a great guy, with a wonderful sense of humor, as you can see by his lighthearted email.
somehow, i never thought it would be so hard to loan money to strangers with no security and almost no return. [italics added]
I talk about this phenomenon in my book, Financing Our Foodshed, in a section called “The Seesaw.” Because that is exactly what I find myself riding in making Slow Money ‘matches.’
To clarify, we don’t really lend money to strangers. All of the Slow Money lenders and borrowers have built a friendship, and the trust between them is what these loans are built upon. No doubt Jeff will soon build a relationship with another farmer, and get to make a low-interest Slow Money loan.
But, in making these matches, some weeks there are too many farmers and food entrepreneurs who have connected with me about needing a piece of equipment, or some start-up capital, or a walk-behind tiller – so many that it keeps me up at night.
Other times I am worrying about folks like Jeff that want to make a difference in their foodshed, but just need a way to make that happen. And I don’t have anyone that is ‘loan ready” that also lives in their foodshed, the area that they live in.
You would think by now, after catalyzing over eighty-five direct, peer-to-peer Slow Money loans here in NC to some 43 sustainable farmers and food businesses that support them – that making these loans happen would be like falling off a log.
But social change is never quite as easy as that. After all, we are dealing with people here, and complicated regulations that are not written to make it an obvious or easy road for the little guy – the small business owner. Every day I meet good, extraordinary people, but with all our time pressures, and quirkiness about money, and the myriad of details that come into play for each and every one of us, working out these first-ever-in-history simple Slow Money loans – well, it just takes time. Which may be part of why it’s called Slow Money.
But each lender and borrower gets their own moment in history. Each relationship, each loan, is a radical departure of the money lending of our day. This is money that traditional lenders will not touch, being loaned to businesses that are re-engineering a broken food system. These are loans to the heroes we will celebrate tomorrow but who are too over-worked today to hardly look up to receive our accolades.
And so each day I awake to hurl myself against a system that propels corporations ahead of ‘coop’–erations, because I remain convinced it does not have to be so hard.
After a bite of Angelina’s homemade baklava and with local honey still dripping from their chins, two lenders took a huge bite out of the credit card debt that Angelina and her husband, John incurred when they added a seating area to Angelina’s Kitchen, their unique, gourmet Greek restaurant in the small town of Pittsboro, NC.
Those two Slow Money loans meant that instead of paying nearly $500 a month for interest only, she could pay less than $200, and in just a few years became debt free.
Now Mark is ready to take Big Spoon Roasters, his delicious roasted nut butter business, from his basement to a nearby warehouse and his friend Jane would love to help – if she and I could just get past playing phone tag this weekend and have time to talk about the possible terms of their Slow Money loan.
We are going to make that happen. As we bounce from one side of this seesaw to the other, our soils are becoming more fertile, our local foodsheds more resilient, and our communities stronger and more wonderful to live in.
We can do this. We already have. And we can do this again and again. Not only here in Chatham County, but all over North Carolina, and across the USA and beyond.
Because it matters. Because it makes a difference. A good one.
To learn how you might bounce up and down along with us you can go to the Slow Money website, or read about these stories in Financing Our Foodshed; Growing Local Food with Slow Money.
Or just enjoy a moment of fun, filmed the day my books arrived in Pittsboro.
And you can join me in – slowly and surely – building resilience in our local foodshed.
The next meeting of Slow Money NC – Charlotte will take place on Tuesday, May 21 at 7:00 PM at Atherton Market, located at 2104 South Blvd. in Charlotte.