Saturday, August 14, 2010
Slow Money National Gathering Held at Shelburne Farms
by Robin Reid
The two-day Slow Money conference sold out with over 600 people in attendance from all over the USA and beyond. Opening Wednesday night at the Flynn Theater with an eTown taping featuring Steve Earl and Allison Moorer, the Slow Money gathering gained momentum for the events and speakers scheduled over the next two days. The roster was brimming with visionaries and social pioneers offering inspiration and practical economic solutions for the ill treatment humankind has afforded the earth.
Vermont and Shelburne Farms is perfectly suited to the mission of this gathering. The spectacular setting surrounding the Coach Barn helped foster the “can do” attitude that prevailed among the speakers. Larger than life posters of Slow Money founding members and like minded entrepreneurs festooned the area. A large tent was erected on the Homestead Lawn and this was where the presentations were made.
The morning session featured Bill McKibben of Middlebury repute. He is the founder of 350.org and author of the newly published Eaarth. Bill will be the keynote speaker this year at Solarfest in Tinmouth, Vermont on Saturday, July 17. Another initiative, the Soil Trust, was also addressed in the morning session by several speakers including Woody Tasch, the founder of Slow Money.
After lunch, Joel Salatin presented his talk on “Scaling Up Without Selling Your Soul.” Joel become known nationwide after his appearance in the film Food, Inc. He outlined his principles of success and sustainability and described the symbiotic model of Polyface Farm. The Salatin family farm has four generations currently living and working on the premises. Following their ethics based contrarian business model they have seen sales grow to $2 million dollars. Their products are sold to a market area that extends no further than four hours from the source—their farm. Visitors are always welcome. For more information check www.polyfacefarms.com.
A dense and very wet storm passed through in the afternoon that was fortuitously devoid of electricity. However, panels were put up on the lake side of the tent and wind gusts were somewhat threatening. After the breakout sessions, Gary Hirschberg, CEO of Stonyfield Farm, shared his powerful vision of socially responsible food production on the large scale. He was followed by Will Raap of Gardner’s Supply, Tom Stearns of High Mowing Seeds and Eliot Coleman of Four Season Farm in Harborside, Maine who each provided their real life examples of how new business models that put ethics before traditional economic principals can succeed. The message was clear that swift action is needed to heal the earth and move into the next era of sustainability and survival.