Alumni Impact: Mark Keller

Alumnus Mark Keller, (Animal Science, ’98), embraces the interconnectedness of the environment and the food we eat, and bears responsibility for the stewardship of both. Born of that passion, two decades ago he founded Keller Crafted, a farm-direct food chain that supports progressive farmers, regenerates the land, and honors the animals.

Keller left Cal Poly with every intention to farm and direct market his meat products. At the time, there was little-to-no infrastructure to support a farm-to-consumer supply chain, so he started building. Keller Crafted has grown from being the first company selling farm-direct meats and representing farmers at farmers markets in the Bay Area to a meat processing and distribution business that supports sustainable and regenerative farmers. “I pioneered and built a regional supply chain up and down the West Coast designed to serve consumers looking for source transparency, purity, dignified husbandry of animals and positive impacts on our ecosystem,” Keller said.

The meat and poultry sold by Keller Crafted is only purchased from farmers who are progressive in their ability to create pure, delicious food in a system that is either sustainable or regenerative in nature. Many of those farmers have then been able to vertically integrate, aiding in creating a more-resilient regional food system with food security, said Keller.

The company sells wholesale to natural grocery and food service accounts, as well as direct to consumers via the Keller Crafted Meat Club. Keller was an early adopter in natural preservation techniques, using only organically accepted preservation techniques and ingredients. Currently the product line includes beef, pork, lamb, bison, chicken and turkey.


The reverence that Keller holds for holistic food systems is present in every aspect of the business — from advocating for regenerative agriculture to paying homage to the larger societal role that food plays. He sees food not only as a necessity, but as a connector — epitomizing a cultural need as humans to be together. “We humans are so funny; we focus so much on how different we are from one another rather than focusing on what we all hold as sacred,” Keller said. “Food and the act of eating has been bringing people and every living organism together since the dawn of life itself — food is sacred. All you need to do is spend a little time learning about soil biology and the greater ecological systems to realize the massive connections we share with our food. We are connected through this incredibly complex web of a food system that binds us all together.”

While public awareness of the pivotal connection between responsible stewardship of the land and how agricultural products are produced has grown over the last two decades, Keller said there is still much to be done. “Impact is what we are all about,” he said. “Keller Crafted is about helping to create a better food system. I believe in a food system that embodies whole-system wellness. A focus on full-system health offers many opportunities to address our human health crisis and climate change and any other imbalance we choose to address.”

That impact is measured by a regional partnership with Savory Global and the Land to Market program, which uses an empirical and scalable soil and landscape assessment methodology to track outcomes in soil health, biodiversity and ecosystem function. “Now that the baseline data is being established and testing is starting to occur, our land finally has a voice expressed in outcomes regardless of the context of the farming operation,” Keller said.

But science is not all that is needed for Keller to know that his mission is being met. “We must know that we are nourishing our community. It’s been heartening to have customers as young as 6 contact us to describe how they are fighting for their lives and how Western medicine is not working for them," Keller said. “I know quality food can be potent medicine. I have hugged people and received emails and thank you cards from the people who embraced nutrient-dense, pure-food therapies and their bodies are healed or healing.”

Accepting the interconnectedness of it all keeps Keller moving forward. “My time at Cal Poly taught me to learn from others but be in massive action and build firsthand knowledge,” said Keller. “Inspiration has always come to me from accepting the challenge to culture a better food system."


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