Events!

We have two Slow Money NC ‘Funds to Farms’ Gatherings in March.

Tuesday, March 12, 6-8pm  at the new Community Matters Cafe, Charlotte, NC
Details and RSVP here.

Wednesday, March 13, 6-8pm, Cocoa Cinnamon, Durham, NC
Details and RSVP here.

If you wish to present at one of these gatherings, email us!

Climate Carnival May 13th!

Climate change is serious, but it doesn’t have to be grim.
At least not in the ways we come together to cope with it.
We know it’s real and it’s terrifying.

But, no one is better at turning serious, scary, and seemingly grim topics into open, easy, powerful, fruitful discussions than Abundance NC.

Again and again they take on difficult topics of our time – like climate change, death, grief, the opoid epidemic, assaults on renewable energy, re-localizing food production – and transmit them into gatherings to create solutions through stronger, more meaningful community. One that honors our planet, offers deep appreciation for our loved ones both here and gone, and most importantly creates spaces, where we can be in each other’s company for much sought after mutual renewal.

Because we need that. I need that.

Join us today, May 13th, at the CLIMATE CARNIVAL, for yet another of Abundance NC’s brilliant and delightful community events addressing the most pressing topic of our time.

The event is at the Plant, so you can count on festive lights and tents, good food, a local beer and spirits cash bar, and a playground.

For our minds and hearts there will be well-informed, deeply thoughtful, and profoundly inspiring speakers. Audience questions and side conversations will take that to an even higher level.

We can do what we so enjoy. Spend time hanging out, maybe to engage in climate change topics – or to talk on other topics, to think together, and to play.

Creating the world we want to live in doesn’t have to be that hard. We can start right now, together with our friends – right here in our community.

I’ll be watching for you:)

With abundant gratitude,
Carol

“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 jokes are about things that are true, or at least mostly true.

Jeff, in his generosity, had approached me about finding a local farmer that might need capital. So he drove a few miles down the road to meet with a farmer who lived near him. Jeff was ready to help with a loan to cover the cost of several new raised beds to grow more produce for local restaurants. Jeff offered his neighbor a low-interest loan for equipment he said he needed. But then when Jeff tried to actually make the loan, the farmer had found a way to get along a bit longer without needing to borrow money.

In the larger scheme of things, that’s great. Whenever possible the best course of action is to stay out of debt.

But Jeff is a willing potential Slow Money NC lender. He cares deeply about the local food movement, but 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 light-hearted email above.

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 trying to navigate!

Some days there are so 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, that it keeps me up at night.

Other times my challenge is helping folks like Jeff that want to make a difference in their local food system, but just need a way to make that happen.

You would think by now, after catalyzing over 160 direct, peer-to-peer Slow Money loans here in NC to some 98 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 their time pressures, and quirkiness about money, and the myriad of details that come into play each time, working out these first-ever-in-history simple Slow Money loans – well, they just take time. And sometimes they become really Slow Money.

But they are each their own moment in history. Each is a radical departure of the money lending of our day. This is money that traditional lenders will not free up, being loaned to businesses that are re-engineering an inadequate and immoral food system. These are loans to the heroes we will celebrate tomorrow but who may too over-worked 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 Shepherd’s Pie made with local sweet potatoes, tomatoes and beef, 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.

Angelina and John get a great story in the local paper!

Those two low-interest Slow Money loans meant that instead of paying nearly $500 a month for interest only, they could pay less than $200, and in just a few years were debt free.

We love making stories like that happen. As we bounce from one side of this seesaw to the other, our soils can become more fertile, our local foodsheds more resilient, and communities stronger and more fun to live in.

We can do this.  We can and we are – and it’s fun.  Join us!

Why are we here?

asparagus To the attendees at the Slow Money NC Spring 2017 Gathering…

We are here to make sure
there is asparagus in April,
and tomatoes in summer,
and broccoli in the fall.
And oyster mushrooms growing magically
all year round indoors.

We are here because in a time of peak oil,
of peak everything…
we will still need to eat.

And so will our neighbors and our friends
and our loved ones, and hungry strangers at the door.

We are here, not out of fear
(well, maybe a bit fearful – only occasionally panicked)
to create the now we want to live in.

A today with abundant fields and thriving sustainable farmers,
with children named “Meadow’ and ‘Rye.’

We are here because we like the taste
of fresh, locally grown food.

We are here because we tried fresh, free-range eggs fried in local butter,
and we smiled and said “I want more of that.”

We are here, not out of fear
(well, maybe a bit fearful – only a touch terrified)
to create the now we want to live in.

We are here looking for connection –
because here is our tribe and we belong.

We speak a common language of goodness and generosity
to the land, and to one another.

We speak asparagus, blueberries, honey bee, lavender, chive, kindness, respect,
and compost, worms and soil.

We are here to make sure
there is asparagus in April,
and tomatoes in summer,
and broccoli in the fall.
And oyster mushrooms growing magically
all year round indoors.

And kale – the greatest teacher of them all.

In winter we brush the snow away
and there she is.

What’s left on a sunny February day starts growing again
to become another meal in March.

Kale never gives up.

We are here to make sure
there is asparagus in April
and tomatoes in summer,
and broccoli in the fall.

Today I am here to gather you around me
… thank you for coming.

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and neither does chard…

~  CPH

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. 

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.