In 2014, I was coming off of the sale of teraswhey® and knew from that experience that the industry would have way more success in bringing new and better food into the world if we had really strong, sector-specific financial technical assistance that could help food brands, farms, and food system projects raise the money they needed to grow.
I was very lucky to be in the Institute for Business and Entrepreneurship at the University of Wisconsin System at the time because they made it possible for me to start the Food Finance Institute using foundation funding. Back then, FFI was just me doing consulting work. After we were up and running, we secured our first USDA LFPP to expand our food hub programming and received UW System support for us to develop and launch Edible-Alpha. I hired my first employee, started working with FaB Wisconsin on their FaBcap accelerator – we were off to the races.
It’s been such a privilege to do the work I’ve been doing since then. I’ve been able to work with consultants around the country to increase our capacity to provide quality consulting across the nation. I’ve been able to work with food entrepreneurs and farmers to help them stay in business and grow. You have all become my colleagues and my friends.
We’ve been able to work with food brands, farms, and food system projects all across the country in boot camps, digital courses. We’ve reached thousands of people through our Edible-Alpha podcast. In the old days, I’d meet people on planes or in meetings and they would tell me stories about how teraswhey impacted their lives. Now people stare at me, then say things like, “Oh, I know how I know you… I listen to your podcast!”
But FFI isn’t just me anymore. It’s a team of people now, and the University is giving its full support for continuing FFI’s work beyond me. I’ve known and worked with Sarah Larson since my first days in teraswhey and I have complete confidence in her ability to take FFI into its next phase. FFI is now a platform that can leverage all of the expertise we’ve developed around the country to deliver impactful training and consulting to all of you food entrepreneurs, farmers, and food systems agitators. Given the current state of the planet, I can’t think of work that is more important than what you are all doing each day.
And the good news is that I’m not going away. I suspect that I’ll be seeing many of you in my new role at Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT in the future.
In the meantime, keep believing in the power of an idea,