Friday, August 14, 2009

Slow Money - White Paper 1

When a group of us presented the case for the Driftless Foods Cooperative/Iowa County initiative to the Slow Money Institute in Madison, we came equipped with our proposals in writing.

Here is the text of the first white paper that introduced the design of our solution to our friends in Slow Money and those of us who came to learn that day. Two additional papers describing the details of our Iowa County initiative were also presented.

Driftless Foods Cooperative. Building the Next Steps

White Paper 1. Executive Summary. 7/25/09

The plan is to grow a network of interrelated, mutually supportive local food processing facilities on a county-wide scale under the direction of a leadership cooperative structure. Our goal is to create a highly transparent, well documented model that can be readily reproduced in other regions.

The Driftless Foods Co-Op will be a market-driven organization supplying locally produced and processed foods to the 35 million people in our local region.

Driftless Foods will be organized as a leadership co-op. This leadership level will provide business services for all individual facility teams that emerge from future business opportunities, including training, mentoring, research, sales, marketing, and financial support.

The core principles of the Driftless Foods Co-Op include regional fair trade, local control, promotion of local foods and local processing, and the distribution of profits to the producer level and the communities they live in. These core principles will be guaranteed in all future relationships created by the co-op.

A three-year design for a system of interrelated local food processing facilities is planned. These facilities will work in concert with the hub facility, an individually quick frozen (IQF) plant in the Village of Highland, Iowa County, WI, planned for year one.

In the following year two, the design calls for building a hydroponic / extended growing season facility in the Village of Avoca as well as an artisan dairy plant in the Village of Barneveld. At the Avoca site, plans are in place to utilize new waste digesters for heat generation to run the facility. In the following year the leadership team will add scale-appropriate, technology-driven facilities that process local/regional poultry as well as the growing goat and sheep herds in our region.

In the third year, the design also calls for the creation of a facility to process a Driftless branded line of regional pet foods. Not only will this benefit animal farming in the region, but it will also allow for food resources from the other processing facilities that may have been considered 'waste' products to be included in the pet food line as a high value-added benefit for the brand.

Clearly there is an immediate need to build out the IQF hub facility in Highland as a first step in building a local food network. As a stand-alone facility it is a compelling business case. As a base for creating a region-scale reproducible local food processing network it is vital.

The Driftless Foods team held its initial kickoff meeting in an 1875 school house, now the Town Hall for the Iowa County Town of Wyoming, just down the road from Taliesin.

Less than two weeks before the meeting, there were 15 people on the mailing list. Within that two weeks more that 200 people asked to join the list and over 50 showed up for the kickoff meeting. What was critical was who the attendees represented. Virtually every person there was a leader of a significant network of people involved in entrepreneurship, local foods, farming, and economic development.

What they reported after our meeting was the key value of the project as something that could be readily reproduced in their own areas and in areas with different agricultural and economic assets.

Driftless Foods Co-Op is an opportunity to create a reproducible local foods processing model that celebrates local foods, is profitable, and returns value directly to the producers, the communities they live in, and the regions that support them for generations.

Authors: Rick Terrien and Mark Olson

Slow Money Alliance

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