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With 'Beetcoin,' Slow Money Aims For A Fast Start In Vermont

Wilson Ring
A young cow eyes the camera at a dairy in East Montpelier on Sept. 4. Slow Money Vermont, which aims to connect investors with small food businesses, launches next week.

On Tuesday, the Slow Money Vermont network will launch in Montpelier.

The concept of Slow Money was pioneered by Woody Tasch, the author of Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms and Fertility Mattered.

Slow Money is groups of people collaborating to invest in small food businesses near where they live.

“It’s everything from a few thousand dollars, meaning like micro-loans, one or two people collaborating to put up a few thousand dollars to help a farmer build a hoop house, all the way up to angel investing,” Tasch explains. Tasch says most of the investments are very small, and are used for things like infrastructure.

But there are bigger examples of Slow Money, like Chatman Market in North Carolina. The co-op was able to replace an 8 percent bank loan, when 16 co-op members got together and each pooled $25,000 to give the co-op a loan at 3 percent instead.

"This is not about a small number of people with a lot of money doing something. It's about a lot of people doing a little." - Slow Money founder Woody Tasch

A local example is Vermont Smoke & Cure. Tasch said a number of people who were very active in the early stages of Slow Money provided the initial investment for the company.

The name was inspired by Slow Food International. Tasch said the idea of something called “patient capital” had been talked about for a while in investment circles, but after a trip to Italy to meet the founder of Slow Flood, Tasch realized “patient capital” was really Slow Money.

While Tasch stressed that many of the Slow Money investments are very small, just a few thousand dollars, it is limited to people who have money to invest.  To get more people involved, later this week, the group will be launching Beetcoin, which will allow people to make investments as small as $25.

“We are trying to make this as participatory and democratic, and non-fiduciary as possible. This is not about a small number of people with a lot of money doing something, it’s about a lot of people doing a little,” Tasch said.

Slow Money Vermont will launch on Tuesday, Sept, 16 at 5:30 p.m. at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier.

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