January 2011 – Slow Money Maine meeting notes

Our January Slow Money Maine meeting was quite well attended even though precarious winter conditions prevailed. This meeting marked the first anniversary of our group which continues to evolve with creative and satisfying collaborations of ideas and action among us. Noah Wentworth, from our Steering Committee, led a lively discussion related to the Governance Committee’s work on our stated Mission, Core Values and Sustainability Criteria. With full group agreement of our mission, we include it here:

“The mission of Slow Money Maine (SMM) is to build a diverse network of individuals, farms, philanthropists, businesses, nonprofit organizations and government entities who are focused on investing in food, farms and fertility statewide as a means of keeping and sustaining our local food systems, economies and communities. Slow Money Maine is a chapter of Slow Money national.”

Many participants shared valued perspectives in response to Noah’s presentation, and we hope to have revised Core Values and Sustainability Criteria confirmed at our March meeting. Molly Gerencer, from Maine’s Office of Securities, was introduced to confirm the guidelines that we have put together for presenters for legal compliance. Other presenters and a synopsis of their offerings follow:

  • John Cleveland, from the Maine Rural Development Authority, shared details of low-interest loans available for Maine businesses with a focus on buildings (new or needing renovation). John is especially excited about funding infrastructure projects in Maine’s agricultural sector.
  • Gloria Varney, from Nezinscot Farm in Turner, spoke about their farm endeavors that include dairy, organic and biodynamic vegies, meats, yarns, natural food store and bakery. She also presented creative funding options that can mutually serve farms, non-profits and local communities. Her particular example described a collaboration with her farm and the Rural Community Action Ministry in Leeds which allows grants to the non-profit to be used for CSA purchases that meet hunger needs in marginalized local populations. She is excited about this approach as a viable and replicable model for others.
  • Carol Ford and Karen Haase, from Cranberry Island Kitchen in Portland, shared the successes and challenges of their dessert business and its notable product of whoopie pies. Using many local sources of ingredients, Carol and Karen are committed to growing their business in Maine.
  • Aaron Fuchs from the Island Institute in Rockland, spoke of the $1M Innovative Fund about to be launched with a threefold purpose: a) microloans to businesses that impact economic development on Maine islands and in communities that support these islands; b) direct equity investments in related businesses; and c) purchase of groundfish permits

Updates included confirmation of Slow Money National’s gathering Oct. 12-14 in San Francisco, findings from our Open Space Dialogue at our daylong event in November, articles by SMM participants in upcoming Maine Policy Review, work on legal guidelines for presenters and IRS guidelines for fiscal sponsors, themes of food systems highlighting several upcoming nonprofit conferences and Slow Money’s Regional Coordinators’ meeting in early Feb. to review the proposal regarding roles of national office and regional groups. MCHT’s Land Conservation Conference on April 30th in Topsham will have a session on mission-related investing with Lisa Hagerman from More for Mission in Boston, Matt Patsky, CEO at Trillium Asset Mgt. in Boston and Gil Livingston, Ex. Dir. of Vermont Land Trust leading the presentation.

As usual, networking time, built into our meetings, provided engaging opportunities to connect with familiar and new participants. Our next meeting will be March 23rd at the Viles Arboretum from 1-4.

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