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Cheese So Good, You Can Take It to the Bank

An Italian financial institution accepts valuable Parmigiano-Reggiano as collateral from struggling farmers.

Photo by Valerie Hinojosa via Flickr

It’s easy to be impressed by the historical and modern wealth of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region. Heavy with Renaissance architecture, intellectual heritage, and a rich culinary culture, the district also arguably has one of the highest qualities of life in the country. Soaking in this opulence, it’s easy to think that the barbed wire around the region’s major banks must guard gobs of cash and gold. But at least one major banking chain in the region, Credito Emiliano (Credem), has started using its vaults to store and trade a more delicious form of wealth: cheese.

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New Microloans Could Give Young Farmers the Capital They Need

Beginning farmers don’t need much money to get started. But until now, the USDA had no way of giving them any loans at all.


Farmers are not a good investment risk. Their business requires substantial influxes of capital to erect barns, buy tractors, and plant seeds, with little guarantee of return. When a river floods or a heat wave hits, it can throw the best business plan off course. One of the best ways for farmers to borrow money is to ask the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which can provide hundreds of thousands of dollars in financing. (Unfortunately, there’s a huge amount of paperwork involved in these loan programs.)

But young and beginning farmers don’t need all that. Starting out, a farmer might need a few thousand to buy a truck, some tools, or a round of seed. Young farmers who want to start small, often organic farms have had trouble getting access to that kind of money. When the National Young Farmers Coalition asked beginning farmers last year to list the challenges they faced, lack of capital came out on top.

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Lumni: Investing in College Students as If They Were Companies

Social enterprise Lumni makes paying for college a collective investment instead of an individual one.

With the cost of higher education spiraling ever upwards, creative ideas for footing tuition bills are more important than ever. But what if paying for college became a collective investment instead of an individual one? That's the thinking behind Lumni, a 9-year-old social enterprise that helps finance the cost of college for students in exchange for a fixed percentage of their future earnings over a set period of time.

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