After spending two full days at the Slow Living Summit in Brattleboro with other food, agriculture, and permaculture entrepreneurs, we are walking away with some keen insights and incisive questions to add to our farm business meetings – a.k.a. dinner table conversations.
First, slow money. As high-risk farmer-entrepreneurs who aim to measure our true success by the amount of top soil we grow, we don’t appeal to most traditional forms of business financing. Despite the wealth and class privilege associated with “slow _____,” we find our values reaffirmed by those who feel compelled to invest their cream back into the crop; who understand what it means to turn money back into soil and why. Slow Money and other more enlightened investors advocate for wealth generation that goes beyond money and profit maximization, and frequently manifests in other forms of capital like social, cultural, and experiential capital.
That said, those with the “cream to spare” who are actually ready to make this shift aren’t so easy to find, as most of us are deeply entrenched in particular posits that self-perpetuate. Of course, what we really need is to redesign the whole system to “turn on affection” as Wendell Berry would say.
Enter Raj Sisodia, co-founder of the Conscious Capitalism philosophy, who is trying to reframe business as an ethical, noble, and progressive way to elevate humanity. Imagine that. His surprising optimism and narrative of world economic history up to and after 1989 (a very pivotal year) is compelling. It’s a “turn this around because we must–and because we can” argument, because (we know) it’s not working status quo, because people are unhappy and stressed out and dying unnecessarily, from both poverty and aspirations of limitless affluence. In an age when capitalism is literally the word we spit out as we make the sign against evil, we both still have to come to terms with what it means to start a farm, even a nut farm, and be an entrepreneur without confronting a constant clash of values and concessions. We can create value–economic value included–and be of enormous benefit to our environment and community well being. We can/must have BOTH/AND. There is so much more to life than money and material wealth, and we must find a way to evolve from consumptive trumpster fire caterpillars to ethereal cross-pollinating flutterbys.
So we land with economic sufficiency, with what it means to have a business that adequately nourishes and sustains us AND gives back more value to our community than it takes. It is the Principle of Enough. We were inspired by a worker-owned cooperative near us that has committed to being and remaining small, Northeast grown and distributed, and disincentivizing future options to sell off because they are in the business of human beings, of ethical and equitable products that meet the multidimensional needs of the community for good, satisfying work. We love this model, because this is first and foremost a labor of love. We do what we do because we care – about people, about re-embedding, about aspiring to higher ways of being and cultivating community. Even if we completely fail financially, we will still have something of great value to offer. We are part of a growing movement of entrepreneurs not motivated by profit, but by the possibility of creating good lives and livelihoods, and leaving a legacy of humic magnanimity!
If you are moved by these reflections, we need to know you. Our current hurdles are completely surmountable with a little dose of inspiration and long-term vision. This life just needs a little more cream in order to churn into butter(nuts) and gold(enseal). We are open to all avenues of funding and financing support, and will articulate our needs to anyone who wants to hear it. We’re ready for you!