SVP Cascadia Foodshed Field Trip

Dan Hulse demonstrates the workings of a 100 year old seed drill
Dan Hulse demonstrates the workings of a 100 year old seed drill

The phrase  “farm to plate” is on the lips of many in the region, but how does it actually happen?  Social Venture Partners and members of the Cascadia Foodshed Funding Project hopped on a bus with Slow Money NW and PCC Farmland Trust to trace the journey through the local food system from Tahoma Farms to one of the Northwest’s premier food hubs, Charlie’s Produce.

Pierce County’s Puyallup Valley boasts some of the region’s most fertile and productive farmland, but development pressures have threatened it with conversion to other uses.  Because of the rich soils and agricultural history, this area is a top priority for conservation for the PCC Farmland Trust. Over the last five years, the Trust has worked with stakeholders, State and local governments, as well as private donors and foundations to conserve hundreds of acres in the Valley. One of those properties is now home to Tahoma Farms. By purchasing a conservation easement on the property, PCC Farmland Trust was able to lower the cost of the farm by 50%, enabling Kim and Dan Hulse to pursue their dreams of owning their own farm.

The HAACP certified packing line for Terra Organics
The custom built packing line for Terra Organics

Tahoma Farms is a 40 acre multi-crop vegetable farm that sells primarily through its home delivery service, Terra Organics.  Dan, Kim and their two children live on the farm and operate the home delivery service, manage production, as well as a nascent agri-tourism business, hosting events at their outdoor banquet hall, a converted dairy barn.  Because of the direct-to-consumer sales, Tahoma/Terra Organics has an onsite washing and cooling line, which enables them to clean and pack their produce for delivery to customers around the region, including restaurants, distributors, and CSA customers.

Given the seasonality of Washington State farming, Dan and Kim need to supplement the farm production with outside fruits and vegetables, and need to sell their surplus to a distributor, which is where Charlie’s Produce comes in. Charlie’s Produce is a local, employee-owned aggregator and distributor that has grown into the largest independently owned produce company in the Pacific Northwest. Charlie’s trucks zigzag across the Pacific Northwest, balancing the supply and demand for high quality fresh produce every day. Thousands of pounds of fruit and vegetables pass through their facility in Seattle’s SoDo industrial area each day, including sunchokes and carrots from Tahoma Farms.  They supplement local supply with national and global products to meet their customer demand. Charlie’s also offers some minimally processed foods, such as cut and washed romaine lettuce, for restaurant and institutional buyers.

Inside one of the Charlie's refrigerated warehouses
Inside one of the Charlie’s refrigerated warehouses

While the buyers at Charlie’s don’t have control over which products a farmer chooses to grow, they can offer advice about which products they have in local abundance and which they have to buy from outside the region.  While the freshness and quality of local produce has a strong appeal, it’s often cheaper to source from California or Mexico, but right now, the customers are demanding local produce and are willing to pay a premium for it. Charlie’s is always open to new sources for great local food.

If we’d had more time, Dan would have let us pick, wash, pack and deliver the week’s shipment to Charlie’s, but . . . maybe next trip, we’ll actually get our hands dirty.


Health Enterprise Development Initiative Final Presentations = Success!

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There was an impressive array of projects on display at last week’s Health Enterprise Development Initiative (HEDI) final presentations. From art quality fermentation crocks to a program incentivizing food stamp use at farmer’s markets, a healthy mix of business, nonprofit and government interests were joined together to tackle our city and county’s most pressing food and health issues.


HEDI is a training program for entrepreneurs creating companies fostering healthy eating, active living, promoting health for consumers, suppliers, and communities.  Attendees were treated to a diverse display of perspectives that many truly appreciated. Hadar Iron of In Ferment said that the event had “transformed the way I think about my business.” Kirsten Wysen of Public Health Seattle King County was so encouraged by the experience that she simply asked us “when’s the next one?”

For the past 11 weeks, eight organizations have been participating in this mini-accelerator co-created by Slow Money NW, Pinchot’s Center for Inclusive EntrepreneurshipKickPublic Health Seattle-King County, and GPS Capital Partners. All are healthy food and community enterprises serving or representing disadvantaged communities. The participants were both for-profit and non-profit , which added to the learning. In conversations the non-profits appreciated the for-profit perspective as it was different yet aligned by underlying values and goals.

Besides the goal of providing accelerated training, a goal for this first HEDI round was to determine if there was another approach to addressing community health goals. Public Health Seattle King County provided an evaluator that followed the project through the eleven weeks. She did entry and exit interviews and observed video tapes of presentations the enterprises made at the first and last meetings, comparing progress towards the stated outcomes. The result? She measured  some of the most impressive gains she has ever seen!

Participants are feeling more financial confidence in their mission-driven business models. Some have pivoted their business model, and some are searching for funding or financing. But the belief that they can have a significant impact on regional food, health and wellness issues remains as strong as ever.

Stay tuned as we’ll have several upcoming stories centered around the crossroads of health, community and food.

Early Registration for Food Systems Financing Web Course

cdfa-logoThis Friday (May 9th), is the last day of early bird registration for the Intro to Food Systems Financing Web Course from the Council of Development Finance Agencies.

This 2 day full immersion course (June 4-5), will address the financing challenges associated with growing, processing, distributing, marketing, and selling food. This is an opportunity for those looking to better understand financing options available to new and emerging food entrepreneurs. The course will discuss capital investment opportunities from federal, state and local governments, tax credits, loan and grant programs, as well as ways to build partnerships in your arena.

During each session, attendees can raise their hands, ask questions, comment on presentations and take interactive polls. CDFA’s Course Advisor moderates the WebCourse to ensure speaker and participant interaction throughout.

The early bird price is $550.00 for members and $675.00 for non-members and goes up $50.00 after this Friday.

This is a great opportunity to learn about how to catalyze your endeavor and find the type of funding designed for your specific needs.

For more information and to register for the event click here.

Natural and Organic Foods Entrepreneurship Forum and Strategy Slam

Over the past three decades the natural foods revolution has changed what we eat, where we shop, and how we talk and think about food.  It also created roles models out of the businesses that dared to openly challenge the interests of American agribusiness and proved that principled business is not just possible, but profitable.

Natural ProphetsJoe Dobrow, a 20-year veteran of this now $100 billion industry, has written a book called Natural Prophets that chronicles the rise of the industry and the pioneers who re-wrote the playbook for small entrepreneurs. Next month Dobrow will be coming to Impact Hub Seattle to talk about his book and highlight how we in Seattle are at the front lines of sustainability and entrepreneurship.

The event will be unlike any other, with a food entrepreneurship panel discussion and strategy slam competition between some of the great new up and coming food companies in our region. Panelists will include local natural food luminaries Joe Whinney of Theo’s Chocolate and Edmond Santics of Sahale Snacks, among others. Tickets are just $9 and are available through Brown Paper Tickets.

We hope to see you there!

When: Thursday April 3rd from 5:30pm-7:30p
Where: Impact Hub Seattle
          220 2nd Avenue South
          Seattle, WA 98104

Five Growing Businesses will be highlighted at our November 4th Showcase

We had an amazing summer in the Northwest! Long sunny days means a good harvest, and this fall’s Food Investor Network Showcase was no exception. We have far more businesses seeking funding than we are able to include in the Showcase, so we decided to focus primarily on those innovative businesses engaged in developing business models that are more profitable and sustainable. Where are the rest? Contact us directly to find out how you can join our network and access exciting deals and support our sustainable regional food system.

You can also join us on our Gust space, which gives you access to time-sensitive opportunities, longer term investment strategies, and a forum to discuss investments securely, all without running afoul of SEC regulations. Please remember that per Securities and Exchange Commission Rules, these meetings are not open to the public.

Earth Equity Logo

Earth Equity Farms develops sustainable Organic and Fair Trade agriculture to supply the growing demand for quality food that is good for you and the world. Their supply chains are certified sustainable and fully integrated from seed to shelf to return more to the land, our farming communities and stakeholders. More info … 

Pinfeather Farms

Pinfeather Farm aims to bring high quality poultry products raised in a conscious manner to a wider audience in the Puget Sound region while creating a financially sound business model that can serve as inspiration to other aspiring farmers. The farmers have over 10 years of experience in organic farming, pastured poultry production, and small business operation.

Our Table
Our Table Cooperative is a cooperative of farms and producers working together to create handcrafted, thoughtful and delicious food for the local community. They are a model multi-stakeholder cooperative that runs a 58-acre farm located in Sherwood, Oregon, about 15 miles south of Portland. More info …

Farmstr logo

Farmstr is a direct online farmer-to-consumer marketplace that aims to enable the success of game-changing famers and provide a viable and non-conventional choice for consumers to spend their food dollars. Farmers can promote their farm and products, manage customer relationships, and track sales and logistics. More info …

Viva Farms Logo

Viva Farms is a farm incubator in the Skagit Valley that is growing the next generation of organic farmers by providing access to bilingual education, land, equipment, loans, and markets.  They have successfully launched 15 new farm businesses and have received national media attention for their pioneering model.  More info …



Thank you to One PacificCoast Bank for sponsoring with this event, and for all the work they do developing regional food and farm businesses.



Reflections from the National Gathering

What do a small farmer from Kentucky, Wells Fargo Bank, a nonprofit leader, a large scale natural food entrepreneur, The New York Times, and a local grain miller have in common? All were in attendance at this week’s Slow Money National Gathering in Boulder. There is no question that this movement is growing, with an increasing number of mainstream institutions and traditional investors joining the conversation. SM National Gathering

We just returned from this event, where we engaged in inspiring conversation with over 650 entrepreneurs, investors, and practioners.  Also in attendance were food luminaries such as Carlo Petrini, Wes Jackson, and Joan Dye Gussow, who spoke about the common sense nature of the work we do, the challenges to doing it, and the policy changes that will support the shift to a healthier system.

Twenty-five entrepreneurs from across the country pitched their businesses to potential investors, including two from Washington State.  Adaptive Symbiotic Technologies makes an organic grade seed coating which increases a plant’s resistance  to harsh conditions. This game-changing enterprise will present their opportunity at our Showcase on May 20th.  Also representing the Northwest, was CPOW Livestock Processor Cooperative, who recently broke ground on a meat processing plant in Eastern Washington that will shorten the supply chain and boost the profits of their member ranchers.

So what did we learn? We at SMNW are pioneers, and not just in the larger financial movement.  We have the largest budget of any of the regional chapters and our additional efforts have paid off:  NW regional investors have placed $5 million of the total $25 million for all 16 chapters.  While our focus has been on connecting entrepreneurs with accredited investors, our sister organization in North Carolina has had success with non-accredited investors as well.

Invigorated by the presence of  so many people with so much passion to fix our broken financial and food systems, we return to the Northwest with a renewed commitment to expand our work here in the Puget Sound Region

In case you missed the gathering it is possible to purchase access to the archives.

Food Investor Network Businesses – Spring 2013

We are pleased to announce a spring harvest of exciting businesses that will be making presentations to accredited investors at our Spring Food Investor Network Showcase on May 20th in Seattle.  Per Securities and Exchange Commission Rules, these meetings are not open to the public.  Please contact us directly for more information about our showcase events and to learn about investing in local farm and food businesses.


Advanced Symbiotic Technologies is a potential game-changing startup. AST has created an organic-grade natural seed coating to improve crop yields in drought conditions. They are in field studies and with patents pending. More info …



Better Bean has been producing and selling ready-to-eat premium refrigerated beans since 2010.  They have received much acclaim and press for their exciting new product line and rolled out to high-end and regional groceries in select markets across the country. More info …



Kansha Natural Foods is a Seattle based producer of handmade and live cultured, naturally fermented foods including pickles, kimchi and kraut sold through the Britt’s Pickles brand.  Britt’s has sold through select grocery chains in the Seattle area since opening a year ago and in September 2012 inaugurated a retail store in the historic Pike’s Place Market. More info …


farm raiser_next

Say goodbye to candy bars, cookie dough and other unhealthy, mass-produced products that kids are asked to sell each year.  Say hello to a new way to boost your local economy, where wholesome food comes direct from the farm or local business to you.  Farmraiser is reinventing the school fundraiser by connecting schools with local farms and healthy food products using an innovative online storytelling platform.  More info …



Suncrest Farms is a clean tech, Seattle-based company that grows lettuce that is
“Always Local. Always Fresh.™” To do this Suncrest uses advanced hydroponic
technology that decreases water consumption by 90%, reduces greenhouse
energy consumption by 50% and has a “zero” long-haul distribution footprint. More info …

Seeds of Success Launch

Farmers Alexa Helbling and Nina Sajeske
Farmers Alexa Helbling and Nina Sajeske are saving to buy a tractor next season to expand productions of hogs and chickens.

On February 19th, we enrolled the first class in our Seeds of Success program. Eight new farm businesses from around the region opened their Individual Development Accounts at One Pacific Coast Bank and made their first deposits.

Each participant has either completed, or is currently enrolled in a business training or internship program to help them build the skills and networks they need to succeed in their enterprise. Over the next year, these new farmers will work with mentors, instructors and peers to develop and improve their  business plans and identify equipment, stock or land needed. Once they reach their savings goals, they are able to use those funds along with their matching dollars for the purchase the asset they’ve identified as key to their success.

This program relies on the expertise of the instructors at Cultivating Success, Seattle Tilth Farmworks the supportive community of new farmers, and the generosity of the donors who provide the funding to match our participants’ savings. We’d like to give a special thanks to Northwest Farm Credit Services and all the individual donors who have contributed so far.

We experienced such an interest and enthusiasm for this program from young farmers across the state, we would like to launch our next class this year.  We have funding to support the operations, but we need your help to fund the savings match. If you’d like to support the program, please click here. Every dollar you donate will go directly to the farmer in the form of a business-building asset, with a clear, concrete plan on how to use it.  No waste, no fuss, just helping farmers grow healthy local food to feed the next generation of Washingtonians.  For sponsorship and donation information, please contact Japhet Koteen.

Slow Money PDX followup

Thanks to all who attended our first Portland event. The NedSpace was perfect, the Hotlips Catering food was yummy, and the presentations exciting and enticing. Thanks again to One PacificCoast Bank for helping sponsor the event.

Just over 40 people attended the event. We had bankers, foundations, equity capital and asset management firms, individual investors, non-profit partners, and our four presenting enterprises. We of course gave an overview of what we are doing and what we see as some emerging national trends. You can download the Slow Money PDX presentation here.

We also found a local lead for Slow Money efforts in Portland. Mailaka Maphalala is the perfect intersection of various efforts in Portland with her Natural Investments work, her partnership with LIONS co-founder and fellow adviser at Natural Investments, James Frazier, her connections with Springboard Innovations, and her genuine enthusiasm for Slow Money efforts around the country.

Malaika has already started planning for the next event in mid June. If you are interested in presenting please Slow Money NW.

Portland event presenters

The Portland event is almost full, only about 5 seats left. If there are any accredited investors out there still interested in attending please contact us. To those who are not accredited, sorry! Please see our post about why this event is structured this way.

We have four exciting businesses to share Wednesday evening:

Thank you to our sponsor One PacificCoast Bank for helping to offset event costs, and for doing the work they do around beneficial banking.

And thank you to NedSpace for donating the space for our event.