By Sasha Banks-Louie
High prices of farming equipment and the increasing costs of borrowing the money to pay for it, has pushed US farmers into $21.9 billion dollars of interest-only debt in 2018, according to the US Department of Agriculture.
To counter this trend, the so-called "Slow Money" movement has been helping farmers get access to low- or no-interest loans through individual investors within their communities. Introduced in 2008 by former venture capital investor Woody Tasch, the goal of Slow Money is to encourage citizens to become "financial stewards" of their local food supply.
"We're matching local growers with potential local investors," says Dr. Karen Willey, who manages "relationship lending" at Slow Money Northeast Kansas.
Willey, who'll be speaking about Slow Money at the upcoming Kansas Permaculture Institute Annual Meeting in mid-January, claims that not all of the networking through Slow Money is financial. To manage her 80-acre farm in Baldwin City, "I labor-share with neighbors," she says, noting that she helps with harvesting or driving grain carts in exchange for borrowing a tractor or a seed drill.
Most of the Slow Money loans that have come from Kansas investors have been $10,000 or less, Willey says. Yet, some Kansas investors have loaned as much as $30,000, and out-of-state investors have loaned as much as $400,000, specifically for Kansas-based farm projects.
"What we're doing at Slow Money Northeast Kansas fills an important need in our community and it resonates with so many people," Willey says. "A lot of people want to be farmers but don't have credit history or collateral to begin or scale up their local food projects."
To find out how to access Slow Money for your farm project, join Dr. Willey and the Kansas Permaculture community at the Kansas Permaculture Institute Annual Meeting, to be held on January 13 from 4-7p at the Buck Creek Schoolhouse in Perry, Kansas.