January 2013

Local Loans for Local Foods Hosts Networking Gathering
by Kate Zaidan

It’s not difficult to notice the shift in our nation’s consciousness when it comes to food. More and more people want to know where their food comes from, how it was raised or made, and if it will nourish and sustain in the ways our bodies need. An oft overlooked aspect of this Local Foods revolution is our economic system: does it serve our vision for a local, sustainable and healthy communities or hinder it?

One of the newest additions to Cincinnati’s local food movement, Local Loans for Local Foods, is calling for a new way to look at money, finance, and food. To that end, Local Loans for Local Foods (LL4LF) brought together dozens of entrepreneurs, potential lenders, and interested community members for a lively exchange of talents, passions and resources at their kick-off and networking party in January. The majestic Peterloon Foundation and Estate served as the backdrop for the inaugural event, where over 60 people shared their projects and available resources.

Recognizing the fundamental economic shifts necessary to transform our industrial food system into one that respects land, farmers, jobs and the environment, LL4LF hopes to connect local food entrepreneurs with individuals interested in lending to their projects. More than just money changing hands, Local Loans for Local Foods seeks to build strong relationships among all members of their network. Far from “business as usual”, LL4LF is inspired by Slow Money, a movement started by Woody Tasch to rebuild the economy from the ground up, tapping the power of communities to build our food secure future.

The energy of the gathering was palpable, with the introductions alone revealing the power of a group like LL4LF. The sheer number of projects, ranging from large to small, from operational to  seed, gave the impression that Cincinnati, with its wide diversity of talent and experience, could leave a mark on the movement for a just and sustainable food system. While there was in some ways a distinction between “lenders” and “borrowers”, most people were some combination of both, each with their own dreams and start-up ideas, but invested in the larger idea of a transformed food system, both materially and spiritually. The group heard a few minutes from presenters with projects from large-scale community gardens to a field-to-table grain and bean mill, and were then free to connect with each other based on what they heard. Nourished by delicious appetizers catered by LL4LF’s own Mark Stroud, an award-winning vegan chef and owner of World Peace Yoga in Clifton, the reception following the introductions gave participants an opportunity to learn more about who was in the room and share resources and plans. Far beyond simply money, people shared ideas about available land, kitchens, restaurants, and more. This is fundamental to the principles of Slow Money, where care of the commons and sense of place anchor investment.

The steering committee for Local Loans for Local Foods looks forward to future gatherings and additional forums for members of the network to stay in touch. The next mixer will be on March 17th, again at the Peterloon Foundation. A listserv was created to enable information sharing between gatherings, and the steering committee is following up with participants to inquire about desired next steps. Local Loans for Local Foods looks forward to creating an environment where individuals can meet, network, and loan to each other, and believes that these small acts of sharing will, together, have a serious impact.

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