Walden Local Meat Co. Invests in Local Farmers and Communities
Last week, the Owl checked in by phone with Mike Leahy, Vice President of Brand and Marketing for Walden Local Meat Co. If you are not familiar with Walden Local, it’s a “whole-animal share program that hand-delivers right to your door.” It is what I short-hand as CSA Meat, which is like CSI Miami except less filled with palm trees. [As full disclosure, while the Owl was a member of Walden Local during the pandemic, we are not currently members, and this is not a sponsored post. All photos were provided by Walden Local].
What is a meat CSA? Walden Local’s members choose monthly shares of meat and other add-ons. Shares range from “Just Grind” with ground pork and beef, all the way up to the “Complete” share with sausages, steak, ribs, chops, chicken, and roasts, as well as a Custom option where you can build your own share. There are many add-ons week over week including eggs, cheese, kefir, pasta, seafood, mustard and candy corn. The last one is not true, but really should be considered.
Owl: What is your background and how did you arrive at Walden Local?
Mike Leahy: I would say that I have always been food-obsessed. Before Walden Local, where I’ve been for almost a year, I worked for Blue Apron for around four years and before that worked for Anheuser-Busch. I started out as and continue to be a passionate cook, but in the end chose business school over culinary school. [Ed: the Owl discovered that Mike has an MBA from NYU-Stern which is only acceptable as a non-Kellogg (go cats!) school because it wears purple].
Why is it called “Walden Local” if the company is based in Tewksbury and the main processor is in Vermont?
We are focused on things that are frequently associated with Thoreau and Walden Pond–an appreciation and focus on natural systems.
How many Weston families are members in Walden Local’s shares?
There are over 100 families in Weston who are Walden members.
We understand that Walden Local has given funds to Land’s Sake, and has recently given a donation to WEEFC (Weston Educational Enrichment Fundraising Committee). Can you tell us a bit about the “whys” of these relationships?
Walden Local and Land’s Sake have similar philosophies — helping others become more knowledgeable about food systems and environment, as well as understanding and appreciating local farmers. We are all interested in being good stewards and teaching others to be as well. In regards to the WEEFC donation, we are trying to build and re-invest in communities and especially to help support families with kids. Most of our share members in Weston are families with kids. I should also mention that Walden Local operates in an area from Portland, Maine to Northern New Jersey–we are always looking for opportunities to support community organizations.
Will Walden Local be selling products at Land’s Sake?
Walden Local’s investment is to help build the Barn–providing facilities better able to meet the needs of the surrounding communities. We are working with the Land’s Sake team to integrate select products into the farm stand and eventually, we will have retail space and member share pickup options at the Farmstand. In the future, we will also offer educational classes in partnership with Land’s Sake.
How is Walden Local’s Marketing done?
We have a small and scrappy marketing team – we do very limited TV and radio, and some limited social media as well through Facebook, Instagram and Google search. We do some direct mail, but the best is our word of mouth–most of our members refer us to new members. We find that our members have a passion for the mission, for the products and the quality. Walden Local is all about trust and transparency–and that is what gives us loyal members who refer us onwards.
What is your best selling product that is not meat?
Our best-selling product which is not meat is eggs. I think once you have tried real farm fresh eggs vs commerically available eggs, you don’t go back. People know about our consistent quality and rely on it. We know people trust us because of our transparency in how the chickens are raised.
What is your personal favorite Walden Local product?
My personal favorite meat product is the pork brisket which is not a very common cut–not many butchers or stores carry it and it’s really unique.
What else is new? And how do you get ideas for new offerings?
Walden Local will be having a pretty unique program for Thanksgiving with hams and local turkeys available [Ed: sooooooo many jokes I want too make about hams and local turkeys as we have quite a few of the latter…alas…behave…]. We’ll be rolling that out later in September–but to be a part of it you must be a member.
We have an innovation pipeline and are always listening to members about new products or sizes that they would like. It’s a bit of a balancing act because we can’t provide customized products to every single request–and we can’t get huge quantities of certain requested items. As in, there is really only one oxtail per animal, so that will never be a huge stock item.
Some folks don’t know that Walden Local also has a local butcher shop in the South End (318 Shawmut Avenue) where you can see how a whole animal is broken down. There are even butcher shop classes for those who want to learn how to chop up certain cuts. Other classes are occasionally offered from the breakdown of whole hogs to sausage making.
What’s the best single reason to be a member of Walden Local?
You are supporting a more sustainable form of agriculture for land and soil. You are choosing to invest in a different system.
The Owl thoroughly enjoyed her chat with Mike. If you are looking for sustainable food choices, Walden Local is a great option for local fresh meat and other products.
Shop and Eat Local! You can find more information about Walden Local online here