USDA Announces $78 Million to Boost Local Food


Regional food received  an impressive new spurn of funding from the USDA last week. The money is split between the Rural Development Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program ($48 million) and available grants from Agriculture Marketing Services ($30 million) targeted at giving much needed federal investment in “food hubs, farmers markets, aggregation and processing facilities, distribution services, and other local food business enterprises.” 

Locally sourced food now accounts for roughly $7 billion a year  in sales but with any emerging sector, cash investments are needed to continue its growth, and its exciting to see the USDA taking a proactive approach and creating new funding options for farmers, growers, and sellers of locally sourced food.

This comes in tandem with the 2014 Farm Bill tripling the funding for and renaming the existing Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) to allow grants to support regional food system infrastructure, as well as direct marketing programs for farmers.

These new funds are available to a wide variety of regional food stakeholders including; cooperatives, non-profit organizations, corporations, partnerships or other legal entities, Indian tribes, public bodies or individuals.

The USDA is accepting applications for the funds on a rolling basis, so our Northwest regional food developers should get their applications in ASAP.

You can read all the details in the USDA’s press release here.

Farm to Institution Research Under Way

Healthy, Local Food

Not Just for the Farmers Market

Slow Money NW research project aims to invest in bringing farm fresh food to local institutions

SEATTLE, Wash. (March 25, 2013) – Washington is one of the largest agricultural states in the nation, yet the majority of food served in our hospitals, schools and other institutions is not locally produced. Slow Money NW is working with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and a broad set of regional partners to highlight opportunities for connecting statewide food with local institutions. Institutions and their customers are demanding it, and investors are seeking to fund businesses that can meet that demand.

“I work with many hospitals in the region that are interested in finding the right food producers and suppliers,” said Kathy Pryor, Program Director of the Washington Healthy Food in Health Care Initiative. “ Twenty-two Washington State hospitals have signed our Healthy Food in Health Care Pledge, and many of them are now trying to source local and sustainable food for their cafeterias and patient meals. These hospitals want to support businesses in their communities, especially local farms.”

Slow Money NW is researching investment opportunities in agricultural production, aggregation, processing and distribution that can serve the institutional market, and bring healthy regional food to those who need it most. Tim Crosby, director of Slow Money NW, points out that private investors, foundations and institutional investors are eager to invest in this market, but there is a shortage of high quality investment deals. “We are already aware of over $40 million interested in financing our regional economy. It’s just a question of proving the market and highlighting some investment opportunities. This is what our current research is about.”

The goals of the effort are to grow a vibrant regional food economy while helping businesses thrive and supporting better nutrition and community health. To engage in this conversation or to refer a business or institution, visit or contact Slow Money NW’s business research specialist, Peter Battisti at or call 206-395-5623.

About Slow Money Northwest
Slow Money Northwest catalyzes growth of the Pacific Northwest’s regional food economy by connecting socially and environmentally responsible food and farm businesses in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana with like-minded investors. The organization also provides technical assistance to startup businesses and strategic infrastructure, offering practical support for the growth of the sustainable food economy in the Pacific Northwest.

Correction: A few announcements went out declaring Washington State as being the third largest agriculture producing state. According to some WA State records, WA State has been ranked as the third largest agricultural exporting state,  and the 12th largest agriculture producing state.

Expanding our Farmer Reserve Fund

Slow Money NW ­­­recently received a grant from the Washington State Microenterprise Association to expand our Farmer Reserve Fund. We aim to recruit ten additional farmers into the program through two informational meetings and one-on-one technical assistance to ensure the farmers are ready to take on funding. These meetings will be held April 27th at Sustainable Connections  in Bellingham and April 29th at the Skagit Valley Food Co-op in Mt. Vernon. For more information please contact Leigh Newman-Bell

In a Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) webinar last month Tim discussed our Farmer Reserve Fund and the larger the role Slow Money is playing in identifying innovative opportunities for farmers that may not qualify for traditional funding. This webinar was a part of their Community Capital series and you can access the recording for more information.

Meet Our New Team Members and Visit Us in Our New Space

Slow Money NW is growing once again!

We are proud to share that we have hired two interns and moved into office space at The Hub Seattle, a coworking space for people like us who are bent on changing the world.

Please join us in welcoming Peter Battisti and Rachel Hynes to our team.

As a child Peter spent annual summer vacations working on his grandparent’s dairy farm in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York.  Witnessing their struggles shaped his perspective on the need to support, maintain and foster our local and regional food systems.Rachel and Peter

Peter provides business support assistance for Slow Money NW, working with local food businesses to develop business strategy and financial plans.  He comes to Slow Money NW after working as an entrepreneur in the renewable energy and real estate development sectors.  For the past ten years he has built partnerships and created investment opportunities throughout North America.  He continues to provide consulting and advisory roles in the renewable energy and food industries while working for Slow Money NW.

Rachel’s grandparents were also dairy farmers and she is grateful to have grown up with access to healthy food and a connection to the land.  She has lived, worked, and invested in diverse communities across the country.

Rachel provides internal and external communications support to Slow Money NW, helping to develop language around opportunities in the new economy. She spent five years at ACCION USA, overseeing its growth into new markets through its online lending program.  Recently, she managed Philadelphia’s mobile market program and consulted with The Food Trust and The Wallace Center on their work with food businesses. She is passionate about harnessing the power of business to create a more just, connected world and is currently pursuing an MBA in Sustainable Food Systems at Bainbridge Graduate Institute.

Financial help for start-up farmers

The Everett Herald posted an article today about our Seeds of Success IDA program:

Financial help for start-up farmers
By Debra Smith, The Herald Business Journal

Nathaniel Talbot is serious about becoming a farmer.

The 29-year-old relocated from Portland to Whidbey Island to take a farming training program at Greenbank Farm. Now he and his partner, Annie Jesperson, have leased an acre on Whidbey Island and are growing and selling fall and winter vegetables directly to 30 customers.

Their biggest challenge isn’t working the land or finding customers. It’s getting established in a business that is, as Talbot puts it, “highly capital-intensive.” Tractors, land, a greenhouse — the costs of getting started are high even for a farmer who wants to start small.

He hopes a new program will help. Talbot was one of the first people to apply for a program aimed at new farmers and ranchers. If he’s accepted, it will help him save money for a big purchase.

The program is a rural agricultural Individual Development Account. It’s being offered jointly by two local nonprofits, Slow Money Northwest and Cascade Harvest Coalition.

See full article at

Slow Money Northwest to Develop Investment Strategy for Regional Farm-to-Institution Sector

As part of a regional partnership with other non-profits, school districts, and government agencies, Slow Money Northwest has received funding from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to support their efforts to bring more healthy local food into our schools, childcare facilities, senior centers and hospitals.  Over the next six months, we will develop a plan to invest strategically in businesses and organizations that can help make healthy food in our institutions. Keep an eye on this space for your opportunity to help, and be a part of this transformative effort.  See the press release below for more information.

Pilot Project To Support Expansion Of Farm To Institution Connections For Puget Sound Region
SEATTLE, WA (January 10, 2013) – With the goal of reducing childhood obesity by improving access to healthy food choices and creating new market opportunities for Washington farmers, Cascade Harvest Coalition, with funding support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is launching a pilot project to grow farm to institution connections in childcare, schools and hospitals in the region.“As past and ongoing work of our collaborative partners demonstrates, the Puget Sound region has made strides to increase access to healthy food in these institutional settings, but it can’t be brought to scale without additional resources”, said Mary Embleton, Executive Director of the Coalition.  “This project will address those barriers by identifying ways of leveraging and scaling successful aspects of farm to institution initiatives, providing replicable models and fast-tracking efforts to allow programs to grow without hands-on assistance and developing a plan that provides strategic investment recommendations that could catalyze success within the Puget Sound region over the next 3-5 years.”

The two-year project, funded with $200,000 from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, builds on current farm to institution efforts that have achieved some success in serving affordable, healthy meals within the target market and creating economic development opportunities for farmers and food hubs by connecting them with new markets and contracts.   The project brings together a diversity of partners, including Grow Food (dba Viva Farms), Northwest Agriculture Business Center (NABC), Health Care Without HarmWashington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA),Kent School DistrictSlow Money Northwest and Public Health Seattle-King County.

“Helping to identify and address key production, food safety and infrastructure needs that will allow us and other farms to provide fresh, healthy food to childcare, schools and hospitals is a tremendous opportunity,” said Ethan Schaffer, Director of Business and Organizational Development at Viva Farms.

“There is a critical role of connecting farms to partner agencies and institutions, helping build good working relationships and figuring out successful systems and models that  can be replicated,” said Lucy Norris, Director of Marketing with NABC.  “This project will provide the opportunity to share lessons learned with others wanting to increase access to local food and provide economic development opportunities.”

“Our efforts to expand the use of fresh, local fruits and vegetables on our menus has really had a positive impact on our students,” said Tom Ogg, Supervisor of Nutrition Services, Kent School District.  “They are getting to experience a larger variety of products and at the same time learn more about how and where their food is grown.”

Business Research Intern Opportunity

(UPDATE: we have closed down the applicaiton window. Thanks to all who submitted)

Slow Money NW is kicking off this new year with new plans for growth. We will update you very soon about all that is moving; but for now we want to let you know about an exciting opportunity to perform business research to quantify the growth needs within the pacific northwest’s regional food economy. The goal of this work is to better understand which regional food and farm businesses, primarily within WA and OR, are trying to expand their products and/or services, and determine their ability to accept business development services, their readiness for financing, and their financing need.

This is a paid intern position that runs initially from mid-February through June.  The intern will work on several parallel business research projects as well supporting ongoing Slow Money activities, and will participate in our unique approach to growing the regional food economy.

Rockefeller Reports

The Rockefeller Foundation has been investigating the Social and Economic Equity in US Food and Agriculture Systems. As part of this work they have generated a series of intriguing reports with the most relevant being Bridging the Gap: Funding and Social Equity Across the Food System Supply Chain. As explained at their website, “This report examines the current state of funding for addressing the problems in the food system and promotes the goals and the vision for a healthier food system. It analyzes where capital is flowing and where it is not flowing, and what kinds of approaches are needed to increase the flow and effectiveness of capital where gaps currently exist. RSF Social Finance, a Slow Money ally, managed the report. View the report …

Press Coverage of Farmer Reserve Fund

Sample of coverage from Grist’s online site

We definitely struck a chord with our Farmer Reserve Fund when we launched it last month.  With limited distribution, we received numerous requests for interviews and many groups are interested in replicating this success.  Check out the articles published so far, and if you’re interested in covering the topic, or learning how to create a program like this in your area, please contact Japhet Koteen.

SMNW Hiring a Project Manager (Application period now closed)

Application period is now closed.
Thanks to all who have submitted applications. There is a great talent pool out there interested in helping us grow this enterprise.

Slow Money Northwest seeks a qualified individual with well-rounded skills to join the team and play a core management role. The position covers a broad range of functions including: organization development, fundraising, operations and project management. The ideal candidate will have experience with all skills, has worked with startup organizations moving into a growth stage, is self-motivated, and can handle diverse tasks associated with small but growing organizations.

The position will coordinate a variety of efforts to help Northwest food and agriculture businesses access capital and business development assistance. Some of these projects include:

•    A multi-state effort to develop Individual Development Accounts for farmers.
•    A beginning farmer loan program with a partner credit union
•    A network of accredited angel investors
•    Investigation into a possible equity/management fund
•    Connecting technical assistance to interested businesses
•    Coordination of regional events and meetings for stakeholders
•    Ongoing communications and fundraising

For complete information download SMNW Project Manager.pdf