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Reviewed by: Christine Oka, Research & Instruction, Northeastern University Libraries, Boston, MA
Founded in 2013, Modern Farmer reaches out to a broad demographic of “farmers, wannabe farmers, chefs, and passionate home cooks. . . . ” with content ranging from features about livestock, the local food movement with farm-to-table articles, and sustainable farming. After three quarterly issues, the magazine’s lush photography, high quality design and “hipster editorial content” won Adweek’s 2014 National Magazine Awards for Hottest Newcomer, and is the 2016 ASME Nominee for General Excellence in the Special Reporting Category.
Modern Farmer describes itself as “the authoritative resource for today’s cutting-edge food producers and consumers. . . . Blending hands-in-dirt service, soulful inspiration, and whip-smart reporting, Modern Farmer understands that a tomato is never just a tomato—it’s also a political, and deeply personal, statement about who we want to be and the world we hope to live in.”
Each quarterly issue contains From the Editor, Food, and Last Word columns. Feature articles are highlighted on the cover, such as “ The Complete Chicken Guide,” with the subtitle “want farm-fresh eggs this season? We’ve hatched the perfect plan.” The play on words is evident on every cover. One has a picture of a chicken with a exclamation, “Cluck, Yeah!” An earlier issue with a cow on the cover had the note, “Have a Cow” and another with a goat said “Get your Goat.” The play on words continues inside. A feature article about “The First lady of Livestock”, an interview with Anya Fernald, a woman who had a “beef with the meat industry” and founded a company that became “America’s premier eco-conscious source for carnivores.” Going against the stereotype within the male-dominated slaughter and meat retail industry, she consulted with animal behaviorist Temple Grandin when designing the company’s slaughterhouse and started out the business by distributing shares of nose-to-tail cow CSA from a van in San Francisco. She sums up her approach as an innovator, “The secret to surviving as an early adopter is being resistant to people who think you’re f__king up.” There is something for every reader from the extensive--and beautifully photographed--guide to raising chickens for fresh eggs to “Still Life with Mass Hysteria” with scientific background information about how GMO technology is more than simply “frankenfood.” In a survey published by Consumer Reports, 72% of American consumers say is they don’t want to eat genetically-modified organisms. On the other side of the question--scientists, food-safety experts, and farmers suggest “perhaps it isn’t GMOs we should reject, but an industrial food system that employs them in irresponsible ways.” Needless to say, this article brings out the usually overlooked possible advantages to GMOs. “Flight Club” is a photo story about an ancient food tradition of Mongolia. Semi-nomadic tribes work with partly domesticated eagles to hunt small game, such as rabbits and foxes. Increasing modernization has threatened Mongolia’s falconry traditions and pictures capture the pageantry and interspecies partnership during The Golden Eagle Festival, a series of hunting competitions to promote, and hopefully preserve, the tradition.
Modern Farmer has practical, down-to-earth tips, recommendations from practitioners on how they use tools, and introductions to newer farmers in Vermont, Uganda, Washington and Tennessee alongside articles concerning broader farming issues, such as carbon farming to address climate change or “how the war on drugs screwed America’s flower farmers.” Well-written and quirky, Modern Farmer will be an interesting addition to public and high school libraries with an interest in farming and sustainable living, as well as academic libraries supporting agricultural programs. In addition to print and digital editions, Modern Farmer also invites readers to “Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Instagram.” They have a very engaging webpage.