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. 

Succotashed Sneak Preview – Thursday, March 14

As a native of Siler City, Nichol Price is especially invested in the future of her hometown.  Like everyone else who calls Chatham County home she wants to see her community grow and prosper.  During her training in the culinary arts program at Central Carolina Community College she began to notice the abundance of small farms producing high quality vegetables and grass fed meats in her area.  When she saw an opportunity to open a restaurant in the old Sidewalk Café location in historic downtown Siler City she realized it was not only as a chance for herself but for the community on a whole to increase their support of their local food system. Price’s goal at Succotashed, her new café, is to bring the products grown nearby directly to restaurant go-ers right there in Chatham County.

Succotashed will be the first “Farm-to-Fork” cafe in Siler City.  This environmentally-friendly model has worked extremely well in the nearby Triad and Triangle areas, but has yet to be introduced in this small Chatham County town.  As a chef, Price is thrilled at the opportunity to showcase what she learned in CCCC’s Green & Sustainable Foods program and hopes that Succotashed will have a positive impact on Siler City’s local economy.

In order to raise the capital she needs to purchase equipment and get Succotashed off the ground, Price started a fundraising campaign on Indiegogo. She hopes to raise $9,500, which will be used to purchase equipment to outfit her kitchen – such as a convection oven and energy-efficient commercial refrigerator. With 12 days left, her Indiegogo campaign is currently one-fifth of the way to reaching her goal, but Price hopes to get as close as possible before time runs out.

Price also reached out to Carol Peppe Hewitt, director of Slow Money NC, for help. Slow Money NC specializes in helping local farmers and food entrepreneurs around the state to connect with potential investors in their communities. Hewitt and Price are teaming up to present a Sneak Preview of Succotashed on Thursday, March 14 from 5:30-7:00 pm at 113 Raleigh Street in Siler City. This event is free and open to the public and will allow interested community members and potential investors to see the café, meet the owner, and talk about the importance of supporting Siler City’s local foodshed.

Slow Money NC gets LinkedIn

I have never knew quite what to do about LinkedIn. In fact I had to resort to Google to be sure how to spell it. (turns out there are a variety of ways…)

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Carol on her LinkedIn profile, Smile!

But for months/years? I have been getting invitations from random people, many who I respect and think are quite intelligent, inviting me to Link In somehow.  But why?  As best I could tell this was a site for folks who are looking for work, or for professional connections – and those who are looking for potential employees.

So I pressed ‘delete.’  As an independent, small business owner for the past several decades, and a raging social activist prone to frequent and uncontrollable ranting and raving, I can only assume I am completely unemployable.

But the requests kept coming, and many were from folks I would love to do more than just ‘accept’ but who I would be delighted to spend the evening with – commiserating about the challenges we face as we try to save and nurture our lovely planet and all her species, and to also pat one another on the back for the pitiful, but real progress we make along the way. So we can keep on keepin’ on.

Tonight I decided maybe this might be a useful tool to help with all that, so I took the plunge and started accepting ancient invites, and even inviting anyone else that I thought might also be a ‘climate change/local food activist.’  I started with 8 ‘connections’ and within about an hour had taken that to 130. (Which says something about what my fellow activists are doing at 8pm on Monday night…)

And I updated my profile. Here’s what I wrote, keeping it under the 2000 character limit.

“Since learning about “Slow Money” in May of 2010, I have been meeting sustainable farmers in North Carolina who need capital (in the form of a direct peer-to-peer affordable loan) and connecting them to the generous people in their communities who understand the importance of protecting fertile topsoil, and who care about supporting local farmers/local food.

It has been a wild and busy couple of years – creating, and now riding, the Slow Money NC seesaw. First we found potential lenders who cared about soil fertility, local food, and building resilience in their foodshed. Many were also fed up with sending money off to Wall Street where it had no positive impact on their community.

Then we found hard-working, deserving farmers and innovative local food entrepreneurs (often in the same person) who just needed a few thousand dollars to start, run or expand their business – but had few, or no, places to turn to for help.

And we introduced them to one another. If they chose – a low-interest loan was the result, over a plate of gluten-free cookies, or standing in a field looking at a potential greenhouse site.

I like to believe we are making a difference. As of Feb 2013, over 70 Slow Money NC loans have been made to 30+ farmer/food entrepreneurs totaling about $640,000. (By the time you read this, that’s probably changed, as we are helping catalyze a loan or more a week these days.)

You can read about our antics at http://www.slowmoneync.org. If you got this far, I also hope you are chafing at the bit to make a Slow Money loan. There’s a place to tell us that at the website as well.

Not a lender today? No worries. Any donation helps ‘pay it forward’ and you can help make next week’s loan happen.

Either way, it’s a wonderful prospect that we just might get a trillion dollars or more out of Wall Street and into local farms. It would transform our grocery stores, our collective health, our planet’s ability to sustain us as a species, and it would be so much fun.

I hope you will join us.”

There you have it. Now it is time to get back to reading Borrower Information Forms, and potential Lender Pledge Forms and seeing who might want to meet and talk to whom. And making those powerful connections.

Here at Slow Money NC we have our own little private link-in to the small farm/local food movement. And we have work to do getting them the community capital they need to start-up, to survive, and to thrive.

That’s the real work on this seesaw.  Thanks to all of you.

All good,
Carol