Reflection Pool: Rejecting Fast Money and Betting on a Slow World, by Cullen Naumoff

Most of us get to food systems work because we believe, fundamentally, we can do better.   We can provide a more just food system that treats employees with dignity, provides an inclusive environment, pays farmers a fair wage and treats our soils and climate with deep respect.   As we pour our passion into a better future, we quickly recognize the need for money to help pursue this evolved vision.  
At Farm Fare, we’re pursuing a path to unlock investment capital focused on providing a return to investors while simultaneously doing “what’s right.”  Over the last 10 months, Farm Fare has had numerous conversations with funds who focus on impact investment, agtech, and solving the world’s most pressing challenges.  And while Farm Fare qualifies on face value with each of these foci, we fail on one key metric: limitless growth. 
We consciously fail at limitless growth, because we fundamentally believe that algorithms that are optimized to prioritize significant financial returns first and foremost, are causing extreme chaos at another end.  And, while Farm Fare’s business model will happily provide returns, we’ve been told time and time again: it’s not enough.
It’s not enough?  The United Nations estimates we have 60 harvests left; the Soil Wealth report just estimated by 2050, we have to eliminate 11 Gigatons in our global agriculture practices to just maintain a carbon neutral position; the World Resources Institute has three scenarios in which there’s a significant risk in each we’ll be unable to feed the world’s growing population by 2050. 
These statistics elicit horror on fund managers’ faces, but they tell us their hands are tied to the financial vehicles they’ve bet on. This approach has created a gap in capital access for start-ups and related organizations that are financially viable inclusive of investor returns but reject limitless growth.  
As each of us focus on accelerating the pace of equitable solutions, we can’t forget the role capital plays in driving change.  We must simultaneously demand access to new forms of capital that gives you, the experts in creating a better future, access to financial resources that allow you to drive forth change that balances impact to people, profit and planet.
Farm Fare’s Money Manifesto:

  1. Systemic change takes patience.  We may want to push hard and fast but being practitioners of soil-based business is a slow row to hoe. Mother Nature and Father Time Rule us all in the end. In other words, we (basically) get a one-chance-per-year production cycle with long lead times and short windows to iterate.  Change and returns will occur, but patience is paramount.
  2. Ownership drives wealth. That may seem obvious, but unprecedented consolidation of ownership has stripped value from those who create it. At all levels, farmers deserve a stake in the technology they’re fueling.
  3. Uninhibited growth is reckless and damaging.  We reject the idea that uninhibited growth and choosing one winner over a general rising tide is the best or more expedient path to a healthier, more just world.

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