A $1.5 million fund has formed to nurture local food systems, starting in Boulder County, Colorado.
Transition Colorado announced the launch of Localization Partners LLC, a for-profit company that will fund local food and farming enterprises, including sustainable farms, food producers that source local ingredients, and local food distribution systems.
Investing in such enterprises "Slow Money" style, the idea is to catalyze scalable and replicable local food systems by developing the Boulder County "foodshed" as a model for improving local food economies in the region, and ultimately across North America.
The group's first strategic investment is in LFS Enterprises LLC, a joint venture with Boulder-based recycOil - which repurposes used oils into biofuel - to establish a local food distribution hub.
The first phase of the project will leverage recycOil's IT logistics management system, which serves over 1,700 customers, to establish an online transaction platform where restaurant, retail and foodservice buyers can connect with local producers.
The system will be ready in early 2012, in time for next year's growing season. The organization is also developing the brick-and-mortar side of the system, with a distribution center including a warehouse and small fleet of refrigerated delivery trucks.
"We envision the distribution center as a connecting place where people can meet with buyers, connect with local food producers, and learn about the food business," says Michael Brownlee, co-founder of the nonprofit Transition Colorado and Localization Partners.
According to USDA data, Colorado citizens currently spend $12 billion a year on food, 97% of which is imported from outside the state," says Brownlee. "In Boulder County, food expenditures total $947 million per year, yet we estimate that less than 2% of food consumed here is produced within the county. As we strive to achieve 25% food localization by 2020, we believe local food systems represent enormous investment and economic development opportunities."
In a separate joint venture, Localization Partners is collaborating with Vancouver-based Foodtree to provide online tools and processes for catalyzing local food sourcing for communities across North America. The first of these, an online 10% Local Food Shift Pledge system, is now being beta tested.
If you're in Boulder and want to meet LFS Enterprises and other aligned businesses, come to the briefing on September 1, 5:00 pm, at Boulder's Millennium Harvest House as part of EAT LOCAL! Week. Woody Tasch, founder and executive director of Slow Money, will deliver a keynote.