Last Wednesday was quite a day. I could hear the protestors as I left my office to attend the Wells Fargo-sponsored 3rd Annual Slow Money gathering, and then later in the day, the Rainforest Action Network's annual fundraiser, Revel.
I don't want to debate the need for big banks vs. small banks and credit unions— that's a conversation for another time.
I do, however, want to take this opportunity to share with you why we sponsored Slow Money and why I attended Revel.
Agriculture is relevant to us. We are the #1 agribusiness lender (PDF) in the U.S., and proudly finance many different aspects of our nation's food economy. At the same, we have a vested interest in supporting strong, thriving communities—as our Vision & Values state, "There's never been a thriving bank in a struggling community." One component of our broader effort to support thriving, sustainable communities is our support of sustainable agriculture through our national environmental grant program (PDF).
One project we're particularly proud of involves American Farmland Trust (AFT), an organization we've supported since before I started working here in 2005. Most recently, we helped underwrite the cost of an AFT project resulting in Sustaining Our Agricultural Bounty: An Assessment of the Current State of Farming and Ranching in the San Francisco Bay Area, a whitepaper (PDF) detailing infrastructure needs to support a local food economy in the Bay Area and nationwide.
What's exciting about Slow Money is that it represents the other side of the equation. AFT outlines projects requiring funding while Slow Money brings investors together to fund sustainable agriculture projects.
In that sense, Slow Money perfectly complements our efforts because we share a mutual interest: strengthening communities through local agriculture. In the end, a strong local food economy requires working together. It requires collaboration and support from everyone—big banks, small banks, investors, farmers, landowners, individual residents, and more.
While members of the Rainforest Action Network participated in Thursday's protest, I attended their organization's annual fundraising event. That may sound counter-intuitive, but the important point to know is that Wells Fargo is open to listening to and engaging its stakeholders. We may not always agree with RAN's tactics, but we do share some mutual goals—especially as they relate to advancing a low-carbon and "greener" economy.
As always, please let us know what you think!