(Like that you're reading? Sign up for our newsletter to get health insights, clever kitchen tricks, gardening secrets, and more—delivered straight to your inbox.)
While you may never be able to opt out of taxes, you can opt out of supporting big agriculture operations, and do tons to support small farmers in your day-to-day life, says Derek Denckla, chair of the New York City chapter of Slow Money, a national nonprofit committed to increasing investment in local food systems. "The majority of people invest in the stock market, but we want people to invest in their local food system."
Shopping at your farmer's market is a great place to start—but it's far from your only option. "You can think of investing in a variety of different ways," he says, and you don't need thousands of dollars and a stockbroker to start.
Related: The Coming Agricultural Crisis—And 8 Things You Can Do About It Right Now
Even if you don't have any extra money lying around, you can invest some of your weekly food budget in a local food business, be that a farmer's market, a locally owned bakery, or a butcher shop that sells regionally raised meats. This kind of "conscientious consumerism" is even as simple as asking your favorite restaurant or grocery store if they use local ingredients.
Join A CSA
If you have a bit more cash on hand (like, say, an IRS refund), invest it in a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program. These are investments in their own way, Denckla says, because you're buying shares in a farmer's harvest similar to the way a stockbroker buys shares in a company, only you profit in fresh veggies rather than money (and after all, you can't eat money!). Of course, it can come with similar risks: If some disaster wipes out a farmer's crop, you're still out the money. But the farmer at least has some financial support to rebuild his or her farm for the next season.
Related: A New Twist On CSA Brings Affordable Organic Produce Where It's Most Needed
Bank At A Credit Union
Big banks lend money to big companies, but small banks and credit unions are more likely to keep their loans close to home. "Move your money into a local credit union, and that allows those lending institutions that are aligned to your values to loan funds to businesses that you care about," Denckla says. You might find a credit union that lends only to food and farming businesses, and some even provide no-interest loans to people who'd like to join a CSA but don't have the $200 to $500 it can cost to buy a share.
Give Local Business A Leg Up
Thanks to sites like Kickstarter.com and Indiegogo.com, it's easier than ever to invest in local businesses and nonprofits looking to get off the ground or expand their operations. And there's no minimum investment, so you can help out as much as your credit-union account will allow.
Be An "Angel Investor"
This might be an option only for the 5 percent, says Denckla, but "if you have $1,000 to spare, you have the minimum amount to place in funds that have a more direct impact on things you care about." For instance, one small nonprofit called Equity Trust invests in farmland preservation and allows lenders to pick the repayment interest rate, so you can get some return on your investment. Another national group, RSF Social Finance, offers a variety of investment funds that support food and agriculture operations that benefit people locally and regionally. You can find other social-investing opportunities at SlowMoney.org.