Behind the Lines - November 2009

“With this issue, we proudly introduce Better Farming, a new magazine produced by experienced writers and editors and dedicated to the interests of the farmers of Ontario.”

Ten years ago this month, those words introduced Ontario agriculture to this magazine. In the same letter to readers in that November 1999 issue, we wrote that “we earnestly believe that small-town and rural Ontario were better served when newspapers and journals were family-owned and operated, and when publishers and editors called the shots from Main Street digs.” That was when we set up shop at the Farm Museum in Milton.

A decade and 100 issues later, we still believe in the Main Street concept. And we are even more certain that this was the right direction as we watch the disintegration of news media across North America in general.

We still believe that objective reporting at arms length from advertisers is the way to achieve greater credibility for all. Ten years ago, advertisers appearing in this magazine demonstrated their belief in an independent voice for Ontario agriculture.

Our November 1999 magazine was 64 pages; the one you are now holding in your hands is 90 pages. A little more than two years ago, Mary Baxter opened our newest bureau in London. In addition to her magazine contributions, Mary – who won gold and silver at the recent farm writers’ awards – now supervises a number of new reporters who contribute to our news service on the World Wide Web. That kind of growth is rare these days in the world of publishing, where cutbacks layoffs and closures are commonplace.

We are no longer in the former Farm Museum, now known as Country Heritage Park. Editors and reporters operate from small offices spread across the farming areas of the province in what amounts to a “cyber newsroom,” a concept that wasn’t possible much more than 10 years ago.

Like our readers, on farms across the province, we depend on a combination of modern technology (rural Internet service, for example) and time-tested techniques to compete in a marketplace dominated by multinational competitors. Like farming, publishing is fraught with risk and constantly driven to greater efficiency and economies of scale. Another similarity is the job and lifestyle satisfaction that both writers and farmers get when things go well.

We are still publishing with an independent voice and we thank those who support our efforts by advertising in these pages. We also deeply appreciate the encouragement we received from some true visionaries at the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, Ontario Pork, The Co-operators and many other farm groups and organizations. Without their support in the early years, there would have been no Better Farming.

Most of all, we thank you, the readers, for believing in us and for calling, writing or simply stopping by our farm show booths to share your thoughts. You’ve told us to maintain our sharp focus on the business of farming in Ontario and to keep on digging for the real story. With continued encouragement from the Ontario farming community, we promise to do exactly that.

We’re looking forward to seeing where our “main street digs” concept takes us over the next 10 years. BF

Robert Irwin & Don Stoneman

Better Farming - November 2009