Amy Cortese has written some of my favorite Edible stories, but that’s just the tip of her iceberg wedge. She’s an award-winning journalist who covers business, finance, food, wine and environmental issues — sometimes all at the same time — for The New York Times, New York, Business Week, Mother Jones, Wired and many more. Her visionary book, Locavesting: The Revolution in Local Investing and How to Profit From It (2011), explores how a small shift in investment away from multinationals toward locally owned enterprises can reap enormous economic and social benefits for individuals, their communities and the country. (Where do I sign?)
Now she’s launched a new website bringing these ideas to a screen near you. Here’s the scoop:
Edible Manhattan: What is locavesting.com and why did you create it?
Amy Cortese: It’s a media site that covers the fast-evolving world of community capital — everything from microlending to crowdfunding to local investment groups. And it seems there are new funding models popping up every week. Locavesting.com is meant to continue the conversation started by my book of the same name and provide entrepreneurs and investors with information about some of these new options.
EM: So what is locavesting?
AC: Well, if locavores eat a local diet, locavestors invest that way. It’s about taking some of the money we have tied up with Wall Street and shifting it to our communities and the local businesses that we know and trust. It’s really about investing with our values.
EM: How does this help food and agriculture ventures?
AC: Funding is a challenge for small businesses, especially those involved in food or farming, considered risky for banks to lend to, and often venture capital is not an option.
Beginning farmers, for example, have a difficult time leasing or buying land, especially when they have to compete with developers and speculators. Access to capital was the number one obstacle reported by farmers in a survey by the National Young Farmers Coalition. So these types of ventures have a hard time getting conventional funding, but they are attractive candidates for community capital.
EM: Can you give some examples?
AC: In New York, Foodshed Investors is a group of local investors that make loans and equity investments in local, sustainable food and agriculture. They’ve invested in local companies including Brooklyn Grange, Mouth, Egg Restaurant and AgSquared.
Another option is Credibles, an app that lets you buy “edible credits” to use at your favorite restaurants, coffee shops, food makers, etc. It’s a form of prepaying that helps the business get cash up front, sort of like a CSA.
And crowdfunding sites such as Barnraiser and Kickstarter allow people to back food-based ventures in exchange for rewards, like discounts on meals or products. Eventually we’ll be able to invest through crowdfunding as well.
I just came back from Portland, Oregon, where they have a new state crowdfunding law that a lot of food-based companies are using to raise money from local investors. Pretty exciting! We’ll be covering all of this and more.
Featured photo credit: Scott Gordon Bleicher