FEAST Finance Forum: Investing in a Local Foods Economy

May 15 & 16, 2014

Anderson Center, Red Wing, Minnesota

Overview: We are bringing together leaders and creative thinkers representing diverse sectors of the finance, food and agriculture system with the goal of accelerating change towards a healthy, local foods economy in Minnesota.

Issue: While the seeds of a local foods economy have been planted and tended over the past couple of decades in Minnesota, efforts have been isolated and under-resourced. As a group, we are ready to create structures to deliver capital, and support, to local foods businesses. To get to this goal, we need to identify innovative financing mechanisms that can be implemented over the next 24 months.

Solution: Bring together leaders and creative thinkers from across the region and from across sectors of food, finance and agriculture to develop innovative mechanisms to provide capital and resources to local foods businesses ready to expand. To jump start this effort, bring in national leaders from organizations and institutions that have developed and successfully implemented local foods financing and investment models to participate in this workshop.

National Food Systems Leaders Coming to the FEAST Finance Forum!

Bonnie Rukin, Slow Money Maine

Bonnie Rukin, Slow Money Maine

Bonnie Rukin is the Coordinator of Slow Money Maine, an intentionally inclusive and diverse network of 900 people representing many sectors and communities in Maine. The network has existed since 2010 with a focus on supporting local sustainable food systems through convening gatherings, connecting people to each other's needs and catalyzing the flow of funds and technical assistance to a wide array of food businesses. To date, SMM has helped to direct over 8 million dollars to Maine's food economy.



Janice St. Onge, Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund

 Janice St. Onge, VSJF Flexible Capital Fund, L3C

Janice St. Onge is President of the VSJF Flexible Capital Fund, L3C and Deputy Director of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund. Janice brings economic and business development as well as financial expertise to the organization, having served in the technology and financial services industries, as well as higher education and state government sectors during her 25-year career. Ms. St. Onge has 10 years of experience at Peoples United Bank in Connecticut serving in retail management, commercial real estate lending (managing a $21 million portfolio) and organizational development roles during her tenure there. She serves on the board of the Vermont Investors Forum, the Vermont Small Business Development Center Advisory Board, the Energy Action Network Capitol Mobilization Group, and is a member of the State of Vermont Community Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) Committee.


Dorothy Suput, The Carrot Project

 Dorothy Suput, The Carrot Project

Dorothy Suput is the founder and executive director of The Carrot Project. The Carrot Project is helping to change our food and agriculture economy by helping farmers and food system businesses extend their commitment to sustainability to their business practices through alternative financing programs combined with business technical assistance and using those experiences to increase the availability of financing and capacity in the sector.


Our objectives for bringing in these changemakers are to:

  • Learn their strategies and the lessons they have learned
  • Understand the details of how they made their models work
  • Understand who they involved and how they made decisions
  • Get their strategic thoughts on how we can move forward. 


The event will take place at the Anderson Center in Red Wing. Due to space limitations, this gathering is by invitation only. If you know of others who are passionate about building a strong local foods economy and have interest and/or expertise in the finance arena, please let us know and we'll add them to the waiting list.

The registration fee will cover the cost of meals for the event. There are no refunds.


A block of rooms is available at the St. James Hotel at a special conference rate of $119. Rooms must be reserved by April 14, 2014. Red Wing also has several bed and breakfasts and hotels that can be found at: http://www.redwing.org/mn/lodging/


Contact Jan at 612-251-7304 or at [email protected]

Learn more about these issues and strategies by reading Growing Regional Wealth, a publication of Renewing the Countryside and On the Commons.

Who will attend?

We are inviting individuals who are passionate about local foods, connected, and ready and able to put in the time and effort into developing working models in Minnesota. This will include farm, food system, economic development, financial and philanthropic leaders engaged in catalyzing our local food system.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

8:00 am: Registration and Light Breakfast

9:00 Welcome - Jim Boerboom - Deputy Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Agriculture

9:15 Financing Local Foods in Minnesota: An Overview

        Jan Joannides and Pam Bishop

9:45 Janice St. Onge: VSJF Flexible Capital Fund, L3C

10:45 Break

11:00 Dorothy Suput: The Carrot Project and Creative Financing for New England Farms

12:00 Local Foods Lunch

1:30 Bonnie Rukin: Slow Money Maine

2:30 Breakout Discussions

•  How do the models shared inform our thinking and action.

•  What additional information, resources do others in the room bring to the table

3:15 Break

3:45 Large Group Discussion/Planning (facilitated by Joanne Kudrna)

4:30 Adjourn formal gathering

5:30 Reception and Dinner at Falconer Vineyards and Winery

8:00 Winery Closes

Friday, May 16, 2014

8:00 Light Breakfast

9:00 Key Ideas and Possible Next Steps (that emerged from Day 1)

10:30 Break

11:00 Case Study: Pakou Hang - Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA) 

 Hear about this innovative example where HAFA partnered with a San Francisco based investment firm in order to 

 access farmland near the Twin Cities.

11:40  Feedback from Bonnie Rukin, Janice St. Onje, Dorothy Suput

12:00 Lunch

1:00 Case Study: Featherstone Fruits & Vegetables (with Jack Hedin and Greta Sikorski). Hear about how Featherstone 

       engaged it's members and customers to raise capital for expansion, and ups and downs associated with their strategy.                      

1:40 Feedback from Bonnie Rukin, Janice St. Onje, Dorothy Suput

2:00 Closing Discussion/Next Steps

3:00 Adjourn



The event is made possible by the generous support of the following:

Gold Sponsors:

Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation            Renewing the Countryside logo           northwest area foundation logo

Silver Sponsor:

agstar logo               

Bronze Sponsor:

MDA logoPeace-Coffee-Turtle-Logo.png sare-northcentral.gif


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