OEFFA conference champions ‘slow money,’ keeping food and cash local


GRANVILLE, Ohio — The notion of “slow money” may sound like something you’d want to avoid on your farm, but, according to author Woody Tasch, slowing things down is what our financial system often needs.

Tasch, author of Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered,” gave the keynote address Feb. 18 at the annual conference for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.

He is chairman of the Slow Money Alliance — a nonprofit that encourages sustainable financial investments that support local, community-based food and farm businesses. To date, $14 million has been invested in 86 small food enterprises around the country.

Local investing

The program seeks to keep more money in local economies by encouraging Americans to invest at least 1 percent of their money into local food systems. The returns may not be seen immediately, but over time help to build a local, sustainable network of business, he explained.

Tasch said historically, the economy has been based on buying stocks in companies and “stuff” that we don’t understand, and that may be located half-way around the world.

The problem, he said, is “you don’t know where your money really is,” and you have limited control over what it does for you.

Renee Hunt, OEFFA program director, described “slow money” as “a movement and an investment strategy. (It’s) about finding meaningful places for people to put their money to work, right in their own communities.”

OEFFA Executive Director Carol Goland introduced Tasch, saying that he and other event speakers were helping to bring about “fundamental kinds of shifts within our society and within our culture.”

Changing the language

She spoke about the changing language of food, culture and economy.

“Slow money recognizes that respecting the interrelationships between ourselves, the connectedness of ourselves as a community, we will lead our way to a restorative economy and in doing so transform ourselves both as individuals and as a society.”

The event was in its 33rd year and attracted more than 1,000 attendees to Granville. Preconference sessions were held Feb. 17, and a wide variety of producer and environmental workshops were held the next two days.

Other speakers

Eric Hanson, extension berry crop specialist at Michigan State University, discussed the benefits of using high tunnels: higher yields, longer growing seasons, higher quality, reduced diseases, and reduced populations of Japanese beetles.

Jeff Moyer, director of farm operations at the Rodale Institute, led a workshop on no-till organic farming, and discussed the importance of cover crops to increase soil fertility.

He said if farmers plan to continue feeding the world, they need to pay more attention to the biology of their soils instead of chemistry.
“We have to shift our gears,” he said, keeping chemistry in mind, but focusing on the life and fertility of the soil.

Several presentations were held on hydraulic fracturing — the modern practice of extracting oil and gas from deep shale formations.

Vanessa Pesec, president for the Network for Oil and Gas Accountability & Protection, gave a talk on protecting land and communities from irresponsible leasing and drilling. She handed out “stop fracking” signs to those who were opposed to the practice.

Different perspectives

Presenters at times disputed facts over hydraulic fracturing and the tone toward the subject depended on the speaker.

Cheryl Johncox, of Buckeye Forest Council, discussed the legislative and regulatory landscape of fracking. She showed pictures of properties that had reportedly suffered losses in land value and use.

Mike Hogan, Ohio State University Extension Educator in Jefferson County, talked about the importance of responsible leasing, but also the opportunities shale gas can provide to farmers, communities and whole economies.

A common misconception is the amount of waste water being injected into disposal wells, as well as understanding the difference between disposal wells and production wells. He said most of the water in eastern Ohio’s fracking rigs actually is being recycled and reused, a process he’s witnessed on the sites he’s visited.

OEFFA presented its stewardship award to Doug Seibert and Leslie Garcia of Greene County. Both have farmed organically at Peach Mountain Organics since 1992, growing certified organic mixed vegetables, microgreens, fresh-cut flowers, mushrooms, hay and greenhouse plants.

They sell their products at the Yellow Springs Farmers’ Market, local restaurants and grocery and health food stores.

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