Charley Cummings wants you to put your money where your mouth is.
The founder of Walden Local Meat Co., which distributes locally raised meat and dairy throughout the Northeast, Cummings has spent nearly a decade thinking about how to build a more sustainable agricultural system in the region. Working closely with family farms to create a distribution network, he has seen firsthand the challenges that small-scale farms often face in obtaining financial backing from traditional lenders.
So last year, he decided the best way to help support that change was by building a bank himself. And not just any bank, but a mutual bank, the first of its kind to open in New Hampshire in a century. Walden Mutual Bank will lend to farmers and other agricultural entrepreneurs in New England and New York who are working to create a sustainable food system.
“The core belief behind Walden Mutual Bank is that anyone can make positive change to this local food ecosystem by something as simple as placing your dollars in a deposit account,” Cummings said in an interview with Janelle Nanos for the latest video in the Globe’s Bold Types series. He’s making an appeal to a generation of consumers who actively vote with their dollars, and who choose to shop brands that align with their ideals.
”Where your idle savings dollars spend the night, so to speak, is in fact way more impactful than where you buy your clothing or or where you buy your food,” Cummings said. With traditional banks, those dollars are often lent to fossil-fuel developers or other corporate entities that may not align with a customer’s values.
Walden Mutual recently received its conditional charter from the FDIC, and Cummings is now working to raise over $20 million in special deposit shares with the goal of opening the bank in August.
“This region of the country has this amazing opportunity to be a Silicon Valley-like ecosystem of enterprises that are really moving the needle on a different model for sustainable food and agriculture,” said Cummings. It’s the only region in the country where the average age of farmers and the size of farms is decreasing, he noted. “We’re excited to be a connection point in building that ecosystem in the next few years.”