How Local Worked in 2021. A message from our CEO

And just like that, 2022 is here! On top of the uncertainty from the past couple years, the whirlwind of the past several weeks has certainly had its own particular flavor of chaos, but the holidays have also filled me and the Walden team with an abundance of thanks, the spirit of giving, and the all important self-reflection that comes with a new year. While it can be tempting to focus solely on what remains to be done, I’d like to take time to reflect on everything we have done. If you haven’t taken a moment to do so, let us be the first to tell you that there’s a lot for Walden members to be proud of – and plenty to look forward to.

Reviewing 2021, we here at Walden couldn’t believe what you and all our other members have helped us achieve. We and our partner farmers, such as Sarah and Tim Haws of Seneca, NY, reached 20,000 acres of regeneratively managed pasture - up 63%. That’s 20,000 acres where animals graze freely and naturally, the way they were meant to; 20,000 acres where pasture rotation lets plants regrow, helping offset climate change by trapping tons of greenhouse gases in their root structures and the surrounding soil; 20,000 acres that belong to local farmers who are paid a living wage – twice as much as their industrial farming counterparts; and 20,000 acres bringing healthier foods to our tables.

To help with all this growth, we grew the Walden team by nearly 20% and moved our packing operations into a repurposed cold storage facility in Tewksbury, MA. We also onboarded three new processing facilities with local partners such as Amos Fisher of Fort Plain, NY - something our partners and our entire region desperately needed! Having additional processors has enabled us to maintain our high standards of animal treatment while also meeting the needs of our growing member community.

With so many more partners, processing facilities, and sustainable pasture under management comes more opportunity and flexibility in our system, and with that, we’ve been able to offer a larger monthly selection for our members. In 2021, we added milk, sliced ham, seafood, and even gifts to our monthly shares – with more to come in the future!

Our membership also grew quite a bit in 2021, and as has always been the case with Walden members, you allowed us to help those in our community most in need. Many are still struggling with food insecurity, especially so in the midst of a pandemic. Your increased support allowed Walden to donate over 300,000 meals through our “1% For The Hungry” program, as well as stocking two food pantries in New England and New York for the entire holiday season.

Giving wasn’t the only way we supported those around us this year. 2021 also saw increased community initiatives. We’ve teamed up with an urban local vegetable CSA to bring food, education, and opportunity to our friends, neighbors, and strangers! We launched our volunteer time off program to bring Walden team members out into the communities more often, and we created a member forum where members can trade recipes, advice, sustainability projects, and even hold contests like our popular “Turkey Hand Art” competition. Our mission as a B Corp goes beyond financial measures, beyond being a simple food provider. Walden’s purpose is to Make Local Work, and with all the member support, we’re doing just that. In fact, this year Walden was awarded “Best in the World” for Community from B-corp and “Boston’s Best CSA” from Boston Magazine.

But in pure Walden fashion, we’re not stopping there! Part of making local work is to constantly build up not from where we started – but from where we are. That’s why we’re looking for ways to promote research and education on how farming impacts our environment and animal welfare. It’s why we’re looking to push those changes all the way to your doorstep, making our packaging, buildings, and vehicles more environmentally efficient. It’s why we’re looking to better connect you with your food producers so we can collectively accelerate the change in how we eat. This is not just in the Walden “DNA”, but in our “day-to-day.” I’m constantly impressed by the grit of our employees, how they go to work no matter what surprises the weather may bring or how difficult the task presented to them. Day-in and day-out, they put in the sweat and elbow grease to make this local economy work.

But we can’t do any of this without you, our members. Walden started with just fifty families. And now, with tens of thousands of us, we’re truly making an impact. Sure, as individuals, it’s easy to feel like nothing more than a whisper against the screams of industrial agriculture – but when we step back and observe what happens when tens of thousands of Walden members come together, we hear those whispers transform into a powerful chorus inspiring real world change. With this collective power, we have begun to build a more sustainable agricultural economy that will positively impact our health, our local communities, and the natural environment all future generations will inherit.

Yes, we’re still small, standing in the face of the industrial agriculture giants, but with every member that joins us, we can add more acres and partner farmers to our network, and the local, self-sustaining economy becomes stronger. If you have a friend, neighbor, or colleague you think may want to be part of what we are building, suggest they sign up for our share program. And as we are in the season of giving, for every new referral, we will donate 30 meals worth of sustainably-raised meat to local food banks.

Thank you so much for everything you’ve helped us accomplish. We’re excited to enter 2022 with a sense of possibility and determination. For now, we’ll leave you by saying, “Live fully, tread lightly, eat locally!”

We’ll see you in the new year!

Very best,

Philip Giampietro

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