On the demise of Organic Gardening magazine

I have been a devoted reader of Organic Gardening magazine for a number of years, ever since ordering my first trial issue via an advertisement printed on an aluminum foil Stonyfield Yogurt lid (!). However, I recently discovered that Organic Gardening is being “re-branded” as Organic Life magazine. For the past several days, I have been mentally composing a distressed letter to the decision-makers. It goes something like this:

Dear Organic Gardening decision-makers,

I am shocked and saddened to hear of the “rebranding” of Organic Gardening magazine into something called Organic Life. Organic Gardening was a unique, 70+ year old magazine; Organic Life is neither. More disturbing, this change clearly signifies a shift in target audience from the producer to the consumer. Just what the world needs – more consumers! Although almost anyone with even the tiniest plot of land (including a rooftop or an abandoned parking lot) can be an organic gardener, not everyone can have an “organic life”. In fact, as the owner of one small New Hampshire beef farm said, “I can’t afford to eat my own meat.”

Your old audience was willing to stand in the mid-afternoon sun, sweat pouring off their foreheads, backs aching and covered in dirt, pulling carrots out of carefully prepared soil. Your new target audience, I fear, is big-city foodies who are more interested in how pretty that carrot looks on a plate than in how it got there. Though Organic Life promises a gardening component, this shift in emphasis feels, to me, like a betrayal of your roots at every level. If you felt like something was wrong with your decision, this is it: Organic Life will join the ranks of a number of magazines of similar ilk (I can think of five or six off the top of my head), while simultaneously leaving farmers and gardeners, literally, in the dirt. The recent explosion of the localvore and food justice movements (including a proliferation of community gardens, CSAs, school gardens, farmer’s markets, farm-to-school endeavors, veterans’ farms, inner city gardens and farms, etc.) calls for support and guidance, not abandonment.

Your recently published Organic Gardening Special Collector’s Issue, which I assume will be the last, profiles J. I. and Bob Rodale, both highly politicized, radical pioneers of the organic food movement. Though this issue purports to pay homage to these highly respected farmers and activists, I find it more likely that both of these men, unfortunately, are rolling in their graves. Unless my predictions prove wrong (in which case I apologize), I will, with great sorrow, be canceling not only my own subscription, but my gift subscriptions as well.


What do you think?

6 thoughts on “On the demise of Organic Gardening magazine”

  1. Perfect! I hope it reaches someone’s conscience, but thaose kinds of things rarely happen. I also grew up gardening using Organic Gardening magazine as my guide. I guess like Mother Earth News, it intends to follow the money. Understandable, maybe. Classy? Nah. Your letter was cathartic for me at the very least. Send it!

  2. Reblogged this on vegetablurb and commented:
    I don’t know why, but something about this proposed letter makes me want to say ‘Yeah, baby!’ I’m glad that people are more interested in healthy things these days, but Organic Gardening filled a very specific need for a specific set of people (organic gardeners) who won’t be as well served by Organic Life magazine.

    1. Thanks, Dan! I have just discovered that the company will maintain an online version of Organic Gardening, which is some help, but I spend too much time in front of the computer as it is. I will miss sitting down and thumbing through it – kind of like getting a letter from a friend in the mail. Thanks for your support!

  3. I can’t even express how saddened I am by their decision. It was Rodale and Organic Gardening Magazine that initially got me interested in the entire concept of Organic Waste Reduction when I was in university 20 years ago. I was proud to stand beside them and take up the fight against the lumber industry who were selling arsenic tainted lumber for use in playground equipment will children were dropping dead all over the United States and Canada. Why is it I’m almost certain that no organization called Organic Life will ever be found on the front lines of any fight as significant as those two just mentioned. Maybe the only way your letter could be improved, would be to turn it into a petition so that myself and any other like-minded people could add their signatures to it also.

    1. I completely agree with your suspicion that “Organic Life” will never be on the front lines of anything. I hope that we’re wrong, but I doubt it. Great idea about the petition. I imagine that their decision is economically motivated, so, unfortunately, it probably wouldn’t get anywhere. On the other hand, some enterprising soul could start a new magazine and pick up the dropped ball… Hm. Thanks for your comments!

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