In the film How We Grow, Woody Tasch of Slow Money, a nonprofit that connects investors with food enterprises, laments that despite the buzz surrounding farmers markets, CSAs, and farm dinners, “the actual amount of capital that’s flowing to build the next generation of organic farms is barely calculable. Very little is going into local food systems.”
To help combat that dearth of financial support, Slow Money works at the grassroots level, having helped organize almost 30 groups in the United States and three other countries that can raise funds for their own local growers. One example: The Roaring Fork Valley’s 2 Forks Club, which funnels zero-interest loans to those in the agricultural space; it was created by Tasch and Carbondale resident Susan Brady and awarded its first grant in 2015.
“2 Forks is amazing in its simplicity and effectiveness,” says the Farm Collective’s Eden Vardy, who also serves as managing director and CEO of 2 Forks. Money is raised through annual donations (which start at $250) and additional pledges, and funding decisions are voted on by club members at an annual pitch dinner. As soon as a loan is paid back, the money returns to the fund for future lending. “Risk has always been on the farmer,” Vardy says. “This creates a mindset of shared risk and shared ownership.”
“It gave us a lot of faith that our community really supports us and believes in what we’re doing.”
—Harper Kaufman, Two Roots Farm
To date, 20 loans have been granted, including to Two Roots Farm, Wild Mountain Seeds, Farm Runners, Forage Sisters, and Zephyros Farm and Garden. The money often means the difference between growth and stagnation, success and failure. “This allowed us to make big purchases, like deer fencing, tools, and equipment, that we really needed to make us more productive and successful right away,” says Kaufman of Two Roots. “It also gave us a lot of faith that our community really supports us and believes in what we’re doing.”
Editor's note: Just as we went to press with this issue, the Farm Collaborative and 2 Forks announced their merger.