At Walden Local, we audit our farming partners throughout the year to monitor their humane animal treatment, environmental stewardship, and ethical processing. Our goal is to ensure our values are upheld while we produce the highest quality, sustainably raised meat possible for our member community.
It all starts with Walden Local’s quality control team. They work day in and day out to make sure that Walden Local’s high standards are not only met, but consistently maintained throughout the year. Walden’s Supply Chain Director Kristen Kilfoyle oversees the acquisition, living standards, and processing of animals, in addition to vetting new partner farmers. She’s a farmer herself (who formerly raised pastured poultry for Walden!), so she has a deep understanding of the entire farming ecosystem and Walden Local’s core mission.
Auditing and quality management requires hundreds of in-person farm visits all over the Northeast. To get this done, Kristen relies on Walden Local Auditors Cole Trager and Steve Schubart. Cole and Steve visit each and every partner farm on a quarterly basis, then a comprehensive audit is completed twice per year. Multiple visits allow us not just to check in, but to create a mutually beneficial system where we help the farmers improve their land and their livestock, while they help us build an environmentally sustainable, humane farming network. This friendly, future-minded process not only raises standards – it maintains them month after month.
Farm visits are fairly informal. Steve or Cole will pop in for a couple of hours and look around just to make sure everything seems in tip-top shape. An audit, however, will generally take all day. Audits require Cole or Steve to do a full walk through of the property, and in some cases, they use a drone to oversee the hundreds of acres a partner farm can span. They must go through all the formal records (births, feed, etc.), checking to make sure that animals are grass-fed, rotated from pasture to pasture, and that the animal’s diets are natural and free of antibiotics. They have to make sure that the animals have shelter, access to water, and aren’t subject to any tail docking or beak clipping – industrial practices that are banned by Walden Local. They even check for things like environmental degradation, manure runoff, and water quality. Steve also visits our beef and pork processing plant frequently to ensure everything is in compliance.
Audits aren’t surprise “gotcha” visits. They aren’t designed to trick or fool our partners – and they don’t need to be. They are designed to help our farming partners grow. Our partners are not only provided with a clear list of everything they need to do to remain a Walden partner farmer, they also sign affidavits that require them to maintain these standards.
Walden’s auditing process truly makes Walden unique. We build in-person relationships with our partner farmers, and these relationships allow us to build a farm system that respects the health of the animals and the farm’s surrounding environment. We appreciate all the hard work Kristen, Cole, and Steve do for Walden Local and for our sustainable agriculture community!