SOIL stands for Slow Opportunities for Investing Locally. SOIL groups are non-profits, funded by the charitable donations of their voting members and then making 0% loans by majority vote of the members. Individual donations to SOIL groups have ranged from $250 to $50,000, with farmer members joining at $25. There are currently five SOIL groups, four in Colorado and one in Virginia.
To date, the five groups have received a total of $1.25 million from 304 members and made almost $800,000 in 0% loans to 60 loanees.
Here are links to the first SOIL groups that Beetcoin funding will support:
Beetcoin donations are aggregated by the Slow Money Institute and then deployed as matching grants to individual SOIL groups. The size and number of such grants will depend on the amount of Beetcoin funding available.
Matching grants play a key role in starting and growing SOIL groups. Over a number of years, SOIL groups will become self-sustaining, as loans are repaid and recycled. From there, they will be able to grow into permanent, community-controlled pools of capital. Matching grants are vital in the early years of this process.
To date, the Slow Money Institute and New Belgium Foundation have made over $200,000 in total matching grants to the five first SOIL groups. Beetcoin donations broaden, magnify and democratize this stream of matching funds.
Our initial goal is to raise enough Beetcoin capital to make matching grants to each of the first five SOIL groups. As we do so, we will report on the progress of each SOIL group and the farms and food enterprises to which they are making loans.
Longer term, the aim is a national network of SOIL groups hundreds strong, moving many millions of dollars a year from tens of thousands of folks, in support of local food systems, soil fertility, and community resilience.
No financial institution values these farms, and the social and environmental benefits they produce, as much as people who live near them.
SOIL groups work at an appropriate scale, driven by local individuals who know their local farmers and the local economy. SOIL groups allow democratic decision-making and common sense to stay in the fore. Because they are not managed by professional fund managers, SOIL groups can respond flexibly to the needs of local farmers and make decisions in the long-term interests of their community.
But there’s a very different way, a less mechanical and transactional way, to answer this question. SOIL groups are about trust and affection. This is obvious in the smiles of everyone involved each time a 0% loan is made.
0%, because we’re all in.
0%, because the difference between 1% and 0% is 100%.
The ethos behind 0% loans is presented in Woody Tasch’s book AHA!: Fake Trillions, Real Billions, Beetcoin and the Great American Do Over, which is available in free online installments.
Simply put, 0% is a way of making it crystal clear that the returns we are all after are not financial returns for ourselves, individually, but social and environmental returns for the good of all.
It just may be that small donations are the only way to produce big change. Occasional large donations from wealthy individuals and foundations are wonderful, but the engagement of a large number of grassroots donors is a movement. And we are in times that cry out for new movements on many levels.
Beetcoin supports structural change in the way small farms are funded, rather than facilitating the funding of an individual farm here or an individual food enterprise there. Together, we are building a whole new funding system that supports soil fertility and local food systems, via local, democratic, community-driven decision-making.
The current decade is pivotal in terms of the response to climate change and the structural problems of our economy. Beetcoin funding enables more rapid development of new SOIL groups, and, through them, a new generation of organic/regenerative farms.
Fifty years ago, there were only a few dozen land trusts. Today, there are 1,400.
The first Community Supported Agriculture program in the U.S. was started in 1986; today, some 600,000 Americans belong to 7,000 CSAs.
With the help of Beetcoin funding, the network of SOIL groups can grow quickly over the next decade.
Like so many young first-generation farmers, I lacked the capital needed to turn my farm dream into reality. Thanks to people—neighbors really—who came together to do this, I now have a thriving small farm producing regenerative food for our community. Receiving that 0% loan was a critical piece in the foundation of my farm.
It is the truth that without Beetcoin this Feed Hub would have never happened.