We’ll get back to the coolers in a moment, but before that it’s worth explaining the position McKenzie plays in our local food community – namely as a facilitator – bridging the gap between farmers and eaters. Perhaps more importantly, while Mac may wear the facilitator hat these days, he is first and foremost an eater who has spent years organizing small groups of like minded people to buy the occasional whole hog or cow, and in the process making it easier to get his hands on the kinds and cuts of meat he wanted to prepare for his own family.
In the early days, the task of organizing these group buys could not have been easy, but it did build a foundation for where McKenzie is today; establishing credibility with local farmers as a resource that could help connect with customers looking for their product, and ensuring that an entire animals were spoken for before slaughter and butchering.
Growing pains meant that at one point, those in Mac’s community had to provide their own coolers for some buys, especially when it came to large purchases like sides of beef, if only to keep things standardized and organized for transportation between the processor and an eventual pickup. The investment by Slow Food St. Louis helped Mac to address this issue, and to make it easier for more people to enjoy the meats he was able to source. Just as importantly, by making an investment in McKenzie, Slow Food St. Louis also made an investment the community of eaters Mac has organized over time.
This means, on one day, Mac’s coolers might be full of cuts of red wattle pork from Kluesner’s Farm in Marthasville near the banks of the Missouri River; on another it could be freshly killed chickens from Houston’s Home Grown in the rolling hills around Hermann. While his cargo might change, the crowds don’t, they just seem to grow; an expanding group of our friends and neighbors who gather together at pickups to collect a share of beef to sustain a family for the coming months, slabs of pork belly, striated with creamy white fat destined to become bacon in a backyard smoker, or birds reserved for a summer cookout.
Mac’s Local Buys has grown since those early days; there is a bit more structure and formality to the process, the buys are bigger and Mac’s community has access to a growing number of products: proteins like fresh ducks, geese and elk, and the chance to participate in a well-edited CSA called Mac’s Grocery Bag, filled with the things that Mac likes to eat, and hopes you will as well. And in the end, it is that last bit that has thankfully not changed as Mac’s community has grown; the idea that there are better, more flavorful, more fair options for all of us out there, and that it is easier to bring them into our homes when we work together. It is a concept that is as delicious as it is infectious, and we are proud to have a small part in helping to bring it to a wider audience here in St. Louis.
The Slow Spotlight is a series of regular blog posts exploring the story of our food. The series reports on local farms, “slow” food products/businesses, and the preservation (or creation) of food traditions with occasional coverage of relevant organizations, issues, and events.