Coordinator of Slow Money Maine
From raising funds to renovate a former jailhouse into a gristmill to pro- viding working capital to an organic dairy farm, Slow Money Maine has boosted Maine’s food system by connecting food businesses with financing and other assistance. The organization, which Bonnie Rukin established in 2010, has helped funnel $14 million into Maine’s food economy through loans, grants, and equity investments. The organization is a chapter of Slow Money, a national nonprofit organization that assists local food businesses acquire capital. The Maine group now has a network of about 1,750 individuals from various industries. “Though Maine has a burgeoning local food movement, it is a state that is primarily rural and poor, with little state government support for agriculture and fisheries,” Rukin says. Slow Money Maine provides connections to food producers who want to grow their business, leveraging human and financial resources to access funding and technical assistance, she says. “Given the risks associated with investments in the food sector, many conventional funders are not supportive of food producers.” Slow Money Maine has also established two investment clubs, No Small Potatoes and Maine Organic Lenders, which bring individuals together to pool funds for loans to local food producers. Collectively, the clubs have made over $350,000 in loans, and the model has been replicated in more than ten states.