Smart & Soulful Money   Podcast

®

Episode 14: Esther Park

Capitalism: Reformation or Revolution?

A #NoRegrets Approach to Regenerative Investing and Philanthropy 

Esther is the CEO of Cienega Capital, a regenerative investment firm utilizing an integrated capital approach to systemic change in the areas of soil health, regenerative agriculture, and local food systems.  Cienega Capital is also part of the #NoRegrets Initiative, a regenerative asset strategy focused on the health of agricultural soils and agricultural communities of North America.

 

Esther has 20 years of experience in mission-based financial services ranging from microfinance to risk capital investments, in partnership with financial institutions, family offices, foundations, and investment advisors.  She also serves as a Board member at Custom Food Solutions, Carman Ranch Provisions, Eden Cider, Civil Eats, and Grassfed Alliance.

Esther has also served as the Vice President for Strategy and Business Development at RSF Social Finance, and oversaw all lending activity from 2007-2011, which resulted in a tripling of the loan portfolio, and the development of a mezzanine debt fund.  

Prior to joining RSF, Esther was a senior consultant for ShoreBank Advisory Services, where she provided strategic and capital planning advice for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), particularly small business and affordable-housing loan funds. She also trained lenders internationally in small business lending practices, and underwrote Program Related Investments (PRIs) for private foundation clients.  

And in a previous life, Esther lived in Nukus, Uzbekistan, teaching English and conducting program evaluation work for the United Nations. 

Esther received her MPP from University of Chicago, and BA in Social Welfare from the University of California Berkeley. 

She lives in Berkeley, California with her husband, Greg, and their two children, Evangeline and Bryce.

HIGHLIGHTS

 

  • Esther describes her work with Cienega Capital. 

  • Why is Regenerative Agriculture Cienega Capital’s chosen focus? 

  • What does it mean to be Regenerative? 

  • Esther talks about change: What changes are needed? How is change happening?

  • How working with Sallie Calhoun has opened Esther’s eyes to the benefits of paying attention to soil

  • What is the #NoRegrets Initiative?

  • Capitalism: Reformation or Revolution? 

  • “Vulture Capitalism” vs. “Emergent Changemakers” - the shift from exploitive and extractive to investment in positive change

  • Esther talks about two businesses Cienega Capital is currently investing in and how it parallels moving from monoculture to a diverse ecosystem.

  • How COVID has exposed lack of resilience in our food system, and how (surprisingly) inefficiency can help

  • Exploring the idea of “What is enough?”

  • How are women playing a key role in innovation at the forefront of both Regenerative Agriculture and Investing? 

  • “The Third Way” - how rejecting a dichotomy of choice framework paves the way toward creative solutions

 

RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE

 

Connect with Esther & Cienega Capital:  FACEBOOKLINKEDIN

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