March 23rd 2011 – Slow Money Maine Meeting Notes

Our March meeting was a lively one, with many new people attending from varied regions and sectors. As usual, our format included networking time; four brief presentations from nonprofits, farms, and businesses; updates from participants; and group discussion related to Steering Committee explorations. A synopsis of presentations follows:

Glen Ohlund, from the Cooperative Fund of New England, shared details of the organization’s 35-year history of lending to co-operatives, several of which are in Maine, such as Rising Tide & Belfast Co-ops, FEDCO, Port Clyde Fresh Catch, & Local Sprouts. In that time, the Fund has lent approximately 26 million dollars to over 530 businesses, from $400 to $715K, and has had a repayment rate of 98.9%, with no investor losses. Glen encourage investors to support their fund with a minimum of $1000 for 2 years at an investor-determined 0-3% interest rate. For more info, see www.cooperativefund.org or contact Glen – glen@coopfund.coop/603-227-0699

Amy Carrington shared work of the New American Sustainable Agriculture Project that is connected to Cultivating Community in Portland. This group focuses on 50 refugee families in Portland and Lewiston, and encourages access to farming, language, financial literacy, nutrition education and ongoing support in the resettlement process. Several participants have gained farming skills based at a farm training site in Lisbon and have developed businesses through CSA’s and farmers’ markets throughout Maine. Farmers are developing collective marketing strategies through Fresh Start Farms. For more details, see www.cultivatingcommunity.org (NASAP) contact Amy – amy@cultivatingcommunity.org/761-4769

Emma’s Family Farm in Windsor was represented by Steve and Rose Hoad who shared their perspectives and needs related to poultry processing in Maine. While Emma’s Farm is a diversified operation, its major focus is on poultry production and marketing and they would like to have access to a USDA-approved facility to meet the huge product demand for a wholesale business. They shared their experiences with a Farms for the Future grant and work with the Dept. of Ag and COOP, a facility that is currently not operating. For more information, contact them at mainefun40@gmail.com or 445-2141/

The last presentation brought together a collaborative endeavor with a non-profit educational program and for-profit food product in downeast Maine. Alan Furth from the Cobscook Community Learning Center and Jeff Johnson from Maine-Fresh Seafood Pies/Cobscook Bay Co. shared the 12-year history of a nonprofit’s focus on restoring healthy communities, more recently combining with a business idea to enhance that focus. It is hoped that by the end of 2012, 25% of the net profits of CBC will go back to the CCLC. For More information, see www.thecclc.org and contact Alan – alan@thecclc.org/733-2233. Check out www.maine-fresh.com and contact Jeff – jeff@maine-fresh.com/733-2222.

Noah Wentworth, from our SMM Governance Committee, presented SMM’s revised Mission statement and led a discussion based on an impressive visual chart that he created, describing the facets of culture, economy and ecology in our SMM endeavors that focus on sustainable local food systems. We hope to have this visual on our site soon to inspire dialogue. He also presented our revised Mission Statement which follows:

“The mission of Slow Money Maine is to build a diverse network of individuals, farms, philanthropists, businesses, non-profit organizations, & government entities that are focused on investing in food, farms, and fisheries and the ecosystems that sustain them, as a means of growing our local food systems, economies, and communities statewide. SMM is a regional group related to Slow Money National.”

Updates:

Several audio clips from our presenters at our daylong event in November are now on our web site, thanks to web master Jeremy Bloom. Tune in to hear Polly Shyka from Village Farm, Jennifer Ranke from Farm Service Agency, Robin Alden from Penobscot East, Nicolas Lindholm from Blue Hill Berry Company, Gabe McPhail & Tristan Jackson from Fox Island Farmers & the ARC, & Sara Trunzo from Veggies for All.

Legal documents regarding fiscal sponsorship of for-profit businesses in the ag sector have been created by attorney Joe Faber from NYC who has donated his time and expertise to SMM. They are being reviewed and implemented by varied groups with adaptations as needs suggest and several groups have already engaged in this pioneering work (AVCOG, SEDC, WHCA & Wholesome Wave Foundation).

Slow Money National has been focused on committee work that resulted from a national gathering of Regional Coordinators in Feb. Woody, Ari and Michael have also been immersed in writing a business plan for the organization and fine-tuning details for public presentation. Among many expansive pieces of this plan are varied platforms being explored to provide both inclusive participation from members and financial self-sufficiency for the organization. These include the Soil Trust with a projected million contributors @$25/yr.; Slow Munis (tax-exempt bonds) dedicated to local food investments; and a Kiva-style platform for peer-to-peer lending in the U.S. (roughly $25-10K loans)

Our No Small Potatoes Investment Club had a great article in the Portland Press Herald by Avery Kamila. An equal number of prospective investors and borrowers (about 9 of each) have gotten involved as a result. The group will be making its second round of loans at the end of March.

Slow Money Maine, along with MOO Milk and Veggies for All, have been chosen by Unity College students to receive citations at their commencement program in May.

Paul Gary Nabhan will be the keynote speaker at this event and Samuel Kaymen will receive an honorary degree.

Calendar items to note include:

Regular SMM meetings: 5/18, 7/20, 9/24 (at CGCF), and 11/17 (daylong event)

SMM Steering Committee meetings: 4/13, 6/8

Slow Money National Gathering in SF: 10/12-10/14

ME Philanthropy Center/Power of Mission Investing: 3/30 in Portland

MANP & Colby Coll./Food as a Metaphor for Systems Change: 4/6-7, Waterville

AVCOG/Western Maine Economic Summit: 4/13, Auburn

MCHT Land Conservation Conference/Mission Related Investg.: 4/30, Topsham

Strolling of the Heifers/Slow Living Summit: 6/1-3, Brattleboro, VT

Our next meeting will be on May 18th, from 1-4 at the Arboretum and though the agenda is not fully set, presenters will include Richard and Andy Marble talking about transforming the Farmington Grange; Jonah Fertig sharing activities at Local Sprouts Cooperative and Cafe in Portland; and Jan Anderson discussing plans for a food processing facility in Belfast. Hope to see you there!

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