With the current focus on the sliding economy, the disconnect between faltering 401Ks and investments can feel obscure. But it doesn’t have to says Woody Tasch, author of <i>Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered</i> (Chelsea Green, 2008). Tasch explains that a financial paradigm shift could turn Wall Street into a Main Street Exchange where investments are comprehensible, from the heart, and closer to home. Slow Money is also the name of Tasch’s nonprofit, an organization that is dedicated to developing an economy based on quality relationships between community, land, and capital. The emphasis is on connecting the investor to his/her investment in a way that is meaningful beyond mere returns. We recently spoke with Tasch to see if and how slow money will catch on.

Delicious Living: What is the main philosophy of Slow Money?

Woody Tasch: I describe slow money as having two pieces: One is a respectful and playful reference to Slow Food, [the international movement to counteract fast food and preserve traditional and regional foods]. Slow Money is the financial component where we could steer meaningful amounts of capital in support of biodiverse, artisan, and organic small-scale food production. The second part is a philosophical piece and has come to the floor because of the macroeconomic events of the past year. As a culture, we are realizing that there is such a thing as money that is too fast, companies that are too big, and intermediation that is too complex. We have to bring money back down to earth and invest in comprehensible things that make our communities and bioregions healthier.

DL: Is this vision of slow money already a reality in certain instances?

WT: We’re not trying to invent something new. We’re trying to create a source of capital that will allow it to evolve faster. We want to create a capital source or financial intermediary that is tailored to small food enterprises that are philosophically committed to staying rooted in their communities and maintaining independence. This is like using compost instead of synthetic fertilizer. We want to be the compost of the financial world for these local, small food enterprises so they can grow.

DL: Where is Slow Money headed in 2009?

WT: We’re trying to raise $5,200,000, which is a rather exciting and daunting task for 2009. But we feel it is imperative to go forward, because while we are pouring millions of dollars into the leaky global economy to bail it out, a bunch of us are working to begin true alternatives. We know there is demand and frustration from investors who want to do something more direct and pure—and what could be better than investing in your local food system.

Here are a few simple strategies for putting slow money into practice:
1. Support your local farmer by buying locally produced food.
2. Dine at restaurants that serve local foods.
3. Shop at locally and independently owned stores.
4. Check out the Investors’ Circle, a group chaired by Tasch that meets biannually to invest in triple bottom-line companies (people, planet, profit). The website, investorscircle.net, chronicles current initiatives and investments.
5. Consider Tasch’s provocative question: What if you had to invest 50 percent of your assets within 50 miles of where you live? Which local businesses would you choose?

For more information about the slow money strategy and movement, visit slowmoneyalliance.org.