Compassionate leaders are courageous souls who often go against convention to inspire us all to be better and do better.
As the founder of Investors Circle (now Social Venture Circle) and Slow Money, Woody Tasch has inspired qualified investors around the world to shift over $200M of capital toward companies with sustainability missions. Tasch’s newest project provides 0% loans to local farmers and food enterprises. The capital comes from folks in the area who can become an impact investor with just $250 to invest. Since 2010 this project, dubbed SOIL (Slow Opportunities for Investing Locally) has invested over $66 million in the US as well as a few million in Canada, France and Australia.
Some people refer to Tasch as the founding father of social impact investing. Peter Strugatz, his friend and a long-time member of Social Venture Circle, explains Tasch’s influence this way, “Mission investment is still in its infancy, but Woody cracked the dam. He taught me that foundations, universities, and unions have the moral right to invest their assets in alignment with their stakeholder values. He has opened my mind and heart to looking at soil, food and food systems differently. This has better prepared me to help scale plant-based businesses including my client, Green Monday.” Green Monday is educating the public on how easy it is to reduce their carbon footprint and improve their health by giving up meat for just one day per week.
Tasch is a Northeastern intellectual with a liberal arts education from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. His grandparents were Russian potato farmers who had to leave their country to escape the Nazis. He has a great appreciation for imagination, facts, and farmers. His new book, SOIL 2017 is a testament to all three. Here he provides a scrapbook of poems, quotes and a tutorial on the current state of food production and soil fertility. The good news includes these trends nationwide:
- From 2006 to 2014 the number of farmer’s markets almost doubled
- Local food sales grew to $12B in 2015, up from $8B in 2008.
- In 2015, organic food sales reached an all-time high of $43.3B, up 11% from the previous year
Why is more organic farming good for all of us and our planet? Putting more organic matter into our soil increases crop yields, ensures a more nutritious food supply and reduces the greenhouse gas effect. Tasch adds, “Farmers are the heroes—facing nature, market forces squeezing nutrition out of the food system, and climate change.” To gain a deeper understanding of his bold statement, I suggest you watch the documentary The Biggest Little Farm. This film chronicles the journey of bio-diversified farmers John and Molly Chester. It is making the rounds at film festivals now and will be released in the Spring.