What a pleasure to stumble on this half hour documentary, "Small Business in America". Produced by local Austin multimedia company Flow Nonfiction, it tells the story of why we do what we do. Even though we had nothing to do with making it! The film touches on concepts of sustainability, and localism, and triple-bottom-line business, but mostly it reminds us that "business", small business at least, is about real live living breathing human beings, and how we interact and treat each other. It is about opportunity, and respect. Beautifully shot, nicely paced, and as an added benefit produced by folks right here in Central Texas. Wow!
We highly recommend 30 minutes of your day enjoying this! Watch it here.
A new study from the Austin Texas-based Capital Area Council of Governments, "Selling Food is Good Business in the Capital Area - But What About Local Food Production?" asks “... how much of the dollars being spent on food are staying in the local economy, as opposed to going to food producers elsewhere?”
The answer is shockingly low. In 2015, around $5.4B (yes, the big "B" as in "billion") in retail food sales occurred. But our area produced $1.3B, meaning around $4.1B of food sales left the local economy. Went somewhere else. Benefited some other economy, or some corporation somewhere, some place other than here.
We think we can do something about that - by investing in good, clean, local sustainable food entrepreneurs.
Starting March 1 in Austin, then again on April 13 in Fredericksburg, then throughout 2017 in Lockhart, Georgetown, La Grange, Burnet, and Rockdale, Austin Foodshed Investors will present 1/2 day seminars for local food entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial Technical Assistance Providers on understanding and accessing various kinds of capital to help businesses grow and succeed.
With support from partners Texas Center for Local Food, USDA-FSA, Capital Farm Credit, National Center for Appropriate Technology, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, and the Capital Area Council of Governments, local food company owners and managers can learn about the range of funding alternatives available, how to prepare to talk to a bank or any other investor, how to finance a business you don't intend to ever sell, and who's available to help.
Visit the Rolling Roadshow, Funding our Foodshed page for more information and registration.
2/22/17, 4:30-6:30, Hopfields on Guadalupe
Several AFI Investor Network members have requested more "in-person" events. It is fun to hang out with each other! And what better way than to hear from three local sustainable food entrepreneurs about their upcoming investment opportunities.
Please join us Wednesday, 2/22/17 at Hopfields, from 4:30 to 6:30pm to hear from three cool local food companies in the process of raising money.
This is a low-key, AFI-style event. No pitches, no projectors, just 20 minute Q&A with each entrepreneur, followed by 20 minutes of roundtable for all the entrepreneurs and all the investors, followed by dinner and drinks if you'd like to stay.
This event is only open to members of the AFI Investor Network. For information on joining AFI, please visit our Invest page.
Please RSVP via Eventbrite by clicking the image below.
Thanks, and hope to see you there!
"...During the farm crisis of the 1980s, an Iowa farmer asked if I knew the difference between a family farmer and a pigeon. When I said no, he delighted in explaining: “A pigeon can still make a deposit on a new John Deere.”
...This prime-time disregard for farmers and food policy is not only irresponsible, but also politically inexplicable when you consider that food is far more than economics to people. Purchasing food has become a political act that takes into account cultural, ethical, environmental, and community values. This was confirmed last March in a national survey published by Consumer Reports showing that huge percentages of shoppers consider production issues important:
This week, just days before he says goodbye to his job, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack landed one last punch in a brawl that's gone on at his department since he got there eight long years ago.
He announced new regulations that are intended to protect small farmers from mistreatment at the hands of meat packers, swine dealers, and poultry companies. Advocates for small farmers, including the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA, praised it as an important step toward ending abuses of power by the handful of companies that dominate the meat industry. The National Pork Producers Council, on the other hand, was furious, calling Vilsack's move "an apparent attack on rural America for its role in helping elect Donald Trump as president."
The sharply partisan reaction to the new regulations suggests that the new rules face an uncertain future. Some of them aren't set to become final until after Trump takes office.
The regulation has its roots in complaints by farmers about growing concentration of power in the poultry, pork and beef industries. A few big companies dominate each of those businesses
In the case of poultry, the major companies typically rely on "contract farmers" who build and own the chicken housing, but depend on poultry companies to supply everything else, including the birds and the feed. Some of these contract farmers say that under these arrangements, they carry much of the risk, but have almost no power.
Contract farming has been on the rise in the pork industry as well. And in the beef industry, some farmers say they can't be guaranteed a fair price for their animals, because just four companies control three-quarters of the market.
In 2008, Congress asked Vilsack's agency to write rules to protect farmers against unfair practices in the meat industry. Later, though, after meat industry protests, Congress changed its mind and blocked any further work on the rules. Last year, that legislative dam broke, and Vilsack charged through the opening.
The new rules come in several parts. The first, which could takes effect almost immediately, makes clear that unfair, discriminatory, or deceptive behavior toward any individual farmer violates the law. Until now, some courts had decided that the law only prohibits behavior that reduces competition in the entire industry. Vilsack called that "an extraordinarily high burden" of proof for farmers to meet.
Other rules define what those unfair, discriminatory and deceptive practices are. They include a requirement that companies share information about how they set prices and ban retaliation against farmers who complain.
The National Pork Producers Council, in its statement, said the new rules would have a devastating effect because they will increase the risk of lawsuits by farmers. That increased "legal uncertainty," according to the NPPC, will actually hurt small farmers, because more companies will decide instead to produce their own hogs, on their own farms, cutting small farmers out of the action.
It's unclear whether all of the rules will take effect. Some of them, including the definitions of what practices are unfair, discriminatory, or deceptive, won't be final when the Obama administration leaves office. The incoming Trump administration could move to block them or simply refuse to enforce them.
Seasonal, local food that is grown and produced by people you know is the tastiest, most nutritious and freshest food available. Here in Central Texas, we have access to an abundant variety of fresh food from local farmers, ranchers and other producers. In fact, farmers' markets, farm stands and opportunities to subscribe to community supported agriculture (CSA) programs are available in nearly every community. Buy Fresh Buy Local Central Texas makes it easier than ever to find local producers and products, while supporting local economies, our environment and the cultures represented by food produced in our area.
"The city where cowboys and hippies have long come together over breakfast tacos is breeding a new kind of food pioneer," writes Beth Goulart Monson in a long-form, beautifully photo'd essay hitting all the high points of the Austin sustainable food movement: urban farming, farm-to-table, farm-to-school, food system design, hunger, climate change, and food sovereignty. And she even name checks AFI! Wow!
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AFI is proud to have joined the new Texas Center for Local Food (TCLF) today, as a Founding Member.
The Texas Center for Local Food is a new non-profit headquartered in Elgin. TCLF provides technical assistance for rural & agricultural economic vitality by creating and retaining quality jobs in processing, production, distribution and marketing of Texas sustainably grown crops.
TCLF is now accepting new memberships - starting as low as $20 - from individuals, organizations, and companies dedicated to strengthening our regional food system. We really encourage you to check out this new organization, support their goals (which align very nicely with ours), and visit their website, at Texas Center for Local Food.
One of the many joys of doing AFI is meeting cool people along the way. Alejandra Rodriguez, founder of La Flaca Urban Gardens, might be one of the coolest.
Alejandra custom grows unique ingredients for chefs, caterers, and food artisans. She does that on land reclaimed from being boring old regular lawn!
Recently she emailed an update including a link to this video, and we asked if we could repost some of it here. She writes:
"In July we shared the news of starting a new farm in southwest Austin. It's been a challenging summer with highlights such as getting a Bobcat stuck in a ditch on a rainy day and shoveling 120 cubic yards of soil amendments under a relentless sun to shape our beds. The idea of farming is quite romantic, the reality never is. Seeing our goal of a big harvest this fall come into fruition makes the blood, sweat, and tears 100% worth it. To the family and friends that have our backs, the chefs that have stood by us, and supporters from all walks of life: Thank. You. Starting a farm requires a strong community, we're deeply grateful for your support throughout this crazy adventure."
Alejandra - you rock! All the best from your friends at AFI!
Jarred & Curt of AFI were honored to attend (and even get to speak) at FARFA's 10th Annual Farm & Food Leadership Conference in Bastrop this past September 25-27. We met many great folks, and heard many great presentations, but the best by far was this rousing keynote from Dr. John Ikerd, Professor Emeritus, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO.
Farm Policy at a Crossroads; A Time to Choose
"We are in the midst of an epic battle that ultimately will determine the future of farming and food production in America. Ultimately, it is a battle for the hearts and minds of the American people. Public trust in American agriculture has been seriously eroded by growing numbers of controversies. The agricultural establishment has responded with a barrage of public relations and political strategies designed to defend the corporate, industrial agriculture status quo. It remains to be seen whether public trust will be restored or public concerns will grow into a demand for fundamental change in the American food system. The ultimate outcome of this battle is up to us – the American people."
[Click the Read More link below for the full text of the speech. We promise it is worth it.]
AFI is launching a Facebook page to help connect with Central Texas food based businesses, conscious capital investors, and any other organization or person trying to improve our food system. Please visit us!
Petey Peterson of Austin start-up Local Charcoal diverts organic waste from the landfill to create premium charcoal products. He partners with sawmills, carpenters and landscapers, for supply, cooks it in home-made "retorts" (barrel-like devices for creating charcoal), then sells it as either lump charcoal for grilling and biochar for agricultural uses.
He needs a bigger retort, and is in the midst of a Indiegogo campaign to fund it. We think Petey is cool, and love his products. You can buy the lump charcoal at Thom's Market, in.gredients, and a variety of other places.
FoodTank has assembled a list of 19 films about the food system and food and ag to "inspire, educate, and give viewers some food for thought.
Here's the list, with links to previews and ways to watch the flix.
SKINourishment is a skin care/repair company that offers 100% plant-based, food grade nutrition to heal our bodies from the outside, just as real food heals us from the inside.
After surviving a fire and losing all of her possessions, SKINourishment founder Polly Glasse turned her knowledge of alternative medicines toward developing dozens of formulations that tackle the toughest problems faced by our largest organ---the skin.
In 1996, inspired by the needs of rock climbers, she created the first solid lotion bar in the marketplace, climbOn. It is a top seller today and used by the #1 rock climber in the world, Tommy Caldwell, along with many others.
SKINourishment currently offers 4 product lines for climbers/activists, crossfitters, babies and spas.
All the products are poured by hand in Wimberley, Texas, and packaged with care into 100% recyclable, reusable or compostable packaging. SKINourishment is distributed via retailers in 30 countries and is committed to making real products with 100% food-grade nutrition, that make a real difference for not only the people they touch but the planet as well.
Three investors from the AFI Investor Network funded the $70,500 loan, to be used for growth capital, in early July 2016.
AFI Deal Page for SKINourishment
Austin Foodshed Investors is on track to surpass internal targets for deal flow in 2016, having closed 6 deals in the first have of the year:
In all of 2015, AFI's first full year of operation, five deals were funded.
Since founding, AFI has seen 92 deals; 11 have been funded. All 11 deals are performing on both their financial obligations and impact goals.
Sweet Ritual opened in 2011 with two flavors of soft serve non-dairy ice cream, and has grown to become the go-to spot for Central Austinites looking for delicious dairy free and allergen friendly desserts. They've become a tourist destination for out-of-towners and have over 8,000 Instagram followers from all over the world. The business now includes wholesale pints and ice cream sandwiches sold at small grocers across Austin.
AFI provided $20k in simple debt financing, from several members of the AFI Investor Network, to top-off Sweet Ritual's own investment for moving to and outfitting a larger store. The new store, at 4631 Airport Blvd, is alongside other Austin favorites The Soup Peddler, The Omelettry, Kome, & Mrs. Johnson's.
Owners Amelia and Valerie believe in the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profits. They're moving towards a zero-waste model in our new space and they source our ingredients locally when possible.
Sweet Ritual Deal page
Sweet Ritual public website
On Saturday, April 30th a massive thunderstorm devastated the Dewberry Hills sustainable pastured poultry farm. 75 mile an hour winds and torrential rain destroyed the movable chicken tents and flooded the pastures. Lighting strikes prevented farmers Jane & Terry from going out into the field during the storm, and many of their birds drowned.
This is the fourth weather catastrophe to strike Dewberry in less than a year, and they see their resources as exhausted.
They've set up a Go Fund Me campaign, at
to raise money to replace mobile tents with larger and heavier metal mobile coops, to get rain water collection gutters up on all their new buildings to prevent pastures from flooding, to replace the washed away driveway, and to continue pay bills while they wait for the next batch of chickens to grow.
Please help by giving what you can and by spreading the word.
The AFI Team
News from AFI; Links to stories on business-for-good, private-company investing, fundraising, & sustainable food.