Regional Spotlight: Madison, WI
By Tina Frailey, photos by Bill Lubing
The Slow Money Wisconsin planning group held their first Discovery Session on Monday, June 28th in Madison.
The group has organized a series of three discovery sessions to 1) gather national legal and legislative experts to identify and overcome the legal, financial and legislative roadblocks that present challenges to investing and lending to independent agricultural and other local food system enterprises; 2) discover the gaps in access to the financial capital and technical assistance that small scale agricultural food entrepreneurs need to help them succeed; and 3) identify specific types of financing that can be offered or facilitated by Slow Money Wisconsin and what organizational mechanisms would best support these transactions.
The June gathering featured legal experts from Madison, Chicago, New York City, San Francisco and Boston. Slow Money founder Woody Tasch joined via phone from Santa Fe.
The overarching questions for the day were: How do we collect community financing to fund a local food system? How do we keep businesses rooted in the community? Topics included: existing requirements for investments, the use of cooperative structures as alternative investment vehicles, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) parameters for financing, alternative approaches to community financing, and the role of banks, guarantees, bank-housed Certificate of Deposit programs and other loan arrangements to finance new enterprises. Each subject area began with a short introduction by a knowledgeable industry member, followed by in-depth group discussion.
The morning was dedicated to cooperative models, followed by a lunch presentation on local exchanges by Michael Van Patten of Mission Markets. The afternoon focused on other legal forms including Community Development Financial Institutions(CDFIs), Limited Liability Corporations (LLCS), social-benefit companies (L3Cs) and non-profits. The conversation ranged from direct public offerings and option contracts for investment vehicles, to donor capital limitations, and legal limits for lobbying.
The Wisconsin group’s second gathering is scheduled for August 9. The goal of discovery session 2 is to identify gaps in access to financial capital and the technical assistance necessary to support strong agricultural business development in Wisconsin. It will include an entrepreneur showcase and dialogue with area investors and technical assistance professionals. You can follow the Madison group further on their website http://slowmoneywi.org/
Note from the ED, Ari Derfel: This report is extra special for me as I am a University of Wisconsin Alumni. The first farmer’s market I ever attended was the Madison market on the capitol square. We would actually set our alarms to wake up early on Saturday mornings (that’s right, college kids setting their alarms on a SATURDAY) to get to the market before the delectable, delicious, gotta-have-it cheese bread was gone. It was the best. Almost twenty years later I can still smell it and taste it when I think about it.
Dane County Farmers Market: Madison, WI.