NORTH GERMANTOWN, N.Y. — For Massachusetts-native Ann Marie Gardner, the longing for a life tuned to the rhythms of the seasons rather than commuter rail schedules didn’t result in a turn to dairying or market gardening. Instead the former journalist raised an impeccably manicured wet finger to the wind and decided the time was right for a publication that would shine a light on contemporary agriculture, its practitioners, and the obsessive foodie culture sprouting around them.
The result: a high-design print publication and online counterpart that invites readers to wake up and smell the manure. Maybe even shovel it. It’s called Modern Farmer, and there’s nothing quite like it. “I don’t think we have competition right now,” says the 48 year-old Gardner, its editor-in-chief and CEO. “We’re not a food magazine, we’re not traditional in any way.”
The inaugural, 136-page print issue which appeared in April of this year (a second is on newsstands now), offers stories on the emergence of organic farming in China; booming populations of feral pigs (they’re in the streets of Berlin); and the interest survivalists are taking in seed banks. There’s also a thoughtful piece on humane slaughter.
It’s smart, pretty, and — in places — funny, although some of the laughter may be coming from old school types who will find the illustrated ‘poop chart’ on page 70 a howler. A column in the autumn issue attempts to match up celebs with vegetable (Q. How is kale like Gwyneth Paltrow? A. We’re so over it.) You can shop here (T-shirts, totes) and learn what’s chic in farm duds just now. “Modern farmers attach themselves to brands,” Gardner says.
To judge from the profiles page theee new agriculturalists are a diverse lot, ranging from wealthy urbanites who commute to their cattle ranches from downtown apartments to kids serving as unpaid volunteers at ag-based non-profits. Gardner says the magazine is aimed at honest-to-goodness, practicing farmers — but is it likely to grow a readership among the kind of people who actually make a living from the land? [Read more…]