Community Food Lab
With all of the amazing local food businesses in the area, we need someone to help make the local food system efficient! That’s where Erin White and the Community Food Lab come in.
This design and consulting firm’s mission is to increase participation in local food systems through strengthening their infrastructure and innovative advocacy work. Erin started his business in 2013, and after two years of steady growth was ready to hire a full-time staff position to take over some of the aspects of the business and free up Erin for more project development. A Slow Money NC loan allowed him to add this additional staff person.
Renaissance Community Cooperative
On track to open in 2016, the Renaissance Community Cooperative will be a full-service grocery store in Northeastern Greensboro, bringing food to an area that has long been considered a food desert. In addition to being a community-owned store, RCC will provide many new jobs and opportunities for local food producers in the area! Slow Money NC lenders joined in to help bring this wonderful addition to the Greensboro community.
Spring Run Market
For five years, Chris and Devica Urwick had to transport and set up all of the equipment for their open air market every Saturday, then take it down and bring it back to their home at the end of the day. But their efforts were worth it to the customers of Spring Run Market, in Greenville, NC, who count on them for all kinds of fresh local food and value-added products, including seafood, baked goods, honey, and more. So when the Urwicks had the chance to expand into a brick-and-mortar store, they jumped at the chance. A Slow Money NC lender helped them with the costs of moving into a storefront and purchasing kitchen equipment for their locally-source cafe/smoothie bar.
Noah Marsh was working as a commercial kitchen manager when he realized how much waste in restaurants could be reduced if they had a cheap and efficient means of transporting their excess food to composters. After immersing himself in the world of food waste diversion, he and his wife Sarah decided to start Food Fwd. Their mission is to make diverting food waste away from landfills and into compost the easiest, most economical choice for businesses in the Triangle area of NC. Slow Money NC lenders helped them purchase a truck for transporting food scraps from restaurants to composters.
While many people recognize the benefits of composting, sometimes the hassle involved in managing a home compost receptacle means that perfectly good food waste goes in the landfill.
In 2010, CompostNow set out to fix this problem by collecting food scraps from households and small businesses. Only two years after their founding, CompostNow had helped to divert over 25,000 pounds from the landfill and, thereby, helped to reduce greenhouse gases! When CompostNow needed a new vehicle to expand their capacity to collect compost, Slow Money lenders were eager to provide the funding! Now the Triangle has even more opportunities to complete the urban food cycle.
Biofuel Buses in Durham
Want to buy a bus? When Marc Dreyfors of Greenway Transit in Durham called to say Duke was unloading nine 32 passenger transit buses at a very good price, we all wanted one. We thought it would be fun to fill it with our local biofuel and run shuttles to our twice annual world music festival in Silk Hope.
Marc had another idea, actually two. One plan was to convert a bus to a mobile farmer’s market, and use another for local farm tours. He had talked about the farm tour idea with several local agricultural extension officers who have run tours with Duke students, and for NC State Agricultural Extension training programs. In speaking with farmers at the Durham Farmers market, Marc had found them whole-heatedly interested, and he already had a sign up list of folks who wanted to participate. Buses could leave from each farmers’ market in Durham, Chapel Hill and Raleigh and take riders on an farm/eco-tour. The farms could sell produce directly to tour participants, who would then stop to eat at a local farm-to-table restaurant. Cooking and ‘shopping the seasons’ lessons could be integrated, along with horticultural lessons. Farm tours could be extended to include wineries and artisanal food production operations, truffle groves and orchards. There are so many great ways to fill a day with local food entertainment!
In the hopes of getting one or both of these projects off the ground, a Slow Money lender came up with the funds to cover one of the buses, and Marc is working on getting a grant funding to pay for the up-fit that would turn it into a mobile farmer’s market.
Organic Cotton T-Shirts in Burlington
The press release went like this: “TS Designs announces financing from Slow Money NC to purchase the first certified organic cotton in North Carolina.”Exciting. Impressive. And it continued… Burlington, NC – Monday January 30, 2012
The Cotton Club – Charles, Cindy, Tom, Eric, Lyle, Glen, Carol, Mark photo by Luck Photography
Last month the first certified organic cotton ever grown in North Carolina was harvested and ginned. With the support of Slow Money NC lenders, TS Designswill be able purchase and convert this organic fiber into yarn and apparel products in North Carolina. “This financing was critical to move this project ahead and keep the organic cotton fiber in North Carolina where it can best impact NC jobs, said Henry.” “Working with Slow Money NC was the logical financing source, local people loaning for local needs.” Now that the financing is secure the fiber will move to spinning with t-shirts and polo golf shirts coming out this summer. “By utilizing local organic cotton, manufactured in a local, transparent supply chain we will make the most sustainable apparel in the world,” said Henry.
The public is welcome to join TS Designs and Slow Money NC at a celebration on Monday evening at 5:30pm at Company Shops Marketplace Coop, 268 East Front Street, Burlington, NC.
And celebrate we did. Not only did TS Designs get the $30,000 they needed from five Slow Money lenders, so they could pay the farmers for their organic cotton – that 30k meant that Slow Money NC had facilitated over $500,000 in Slow Money loans in North Carolina. Bravo team! I’ll toast to that!
Cotton Club 2.0
In early 2012, a number of Slow Money NC lenders came together to finance the harvest of the first certified organic cotton grown in NC, as catalyzed by the local visionaries atTS Designs. This cotton was turned in to apparel right here in North Carolina – like t-shirts, jeans, ties, and socks. They came back to us in January 2013, and another 5 local lenders funded their second harvest. We’re excited to be a part of this project, and are looking forward to even more organic cotton in the future!
Bringing It Home Chatham, LLC
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.