Sunday, September 27, 2009

Money, money, money...

It angers me to hear affirmations that food movements such as the locavores, Slow Food, and organic/Fair Trade are elitist. Food movements are a reaction to current events: packages of washed and trimmed spinach contaminated with E.coli; mad cow disease; avian flu threatening the free range industry; obesity being declared a worldwide epidemic; farmland being sold for residential development...

Foodies are often portrayed as snobby epicureans, and many are, but in their hearts they are people who care about food. Strictly speaking, we should all be foodies: we should care about where our food comes from; how it got to our table; what are its environmental and social impacts.

In a perfect world, we would all join CSAs, buy only Fair Trade coffee/tea/chocolate, have cupboards full of organic spices and condiments. But it is not a perfect world: some people think it is too expensive (it is not, even less so after one factors in the medical and environmental costs of a bad diet), too bothersome (no one stop shop for the marketeer), and most of all, too time consuming!

It is a sad fact that there are more and more people who do not know how or want to cook, but that is another story. Well to the non-cookers I say this: you no longer have an excuse not to support local producers and organic farmers! You too can help inject cash into the local economy, feel good about it, and you WILL NOT be getting a weekly basket of beautiful, organic fruits and vegetables. What you get is a modest, yet steady return on your investments. It's like CSA, Fare Trade and eco-friendly all rolled into one, and it's called Slow Money.

Now that you've already had all your investments transferred into ethical funds, Slow Money seems like the next logical step. Conventional investments go to big corporations like Monsanto and Big Pharma (yes, even though you participate in all the anti-Monsanto rallies and sign the petitions, if you have a regular RRSP, or a conventional pension/investment portfolio, chances are some of your money is going to the enemy), and banks have more less cut off all loans to small farmers, so until recently their only recourse was starting a CSA scheme. But not all farmers produce consumer-friendly fruits and vegetables, some produce organic feed or grain, others are into dairy and want to expand into cheese... All need money to improve or expand, but are unable to get loans through conventional means. This is where Slow Money comes in: you invest in a small farm or company, and in return you get a tiny share, and a steady return. It's nothing big, nothing astronomical, however it is a steady and stable return. You might not be able to bank your retirement on this investment, but you will be contributing to the local economy, preserving farmland and the environment, helping to ensure food safety and stability.

You can feel better about your pile of dough growing. And as bakers like to say, a slow rise means better flavour and keeps longer!

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