LAUNCHING MODERN AG MAG: A Page from a Farmer’s Handbook
Modern Agriculture Magazine, or Modern Ag Mag as many call it, celebrates its 5th year in 2018. It was begun as a quarterly publication by a small group of young farmers and agriculture students, hungry to share what they were learning with others in the agriculture community.
Gurtaj Sandhu was one of the original pioneering members and today holds the title of Director of Marketing. In 2012, while volunteering on the Blueberry Growers Association board, he and others from his peer group of 20-something visionaries spawned the idea to launch an agriculture magazine. The fact that they had little to no experience in publishing and virtually no funds with which to begin didn’t stop them.
“My role on the board had to do with marketing,” explains Sandhu. “We produced grower’s handbooks, which included information on farm safety and food safety and record-keeping, and resources to help them on the farm. One of our group suggested we create a publication of our own. We met regularly, began gathering articles and went to people we knew in the industry; and our families helped financially to get the magazine off the ground. It took off from there.”
When the team examined many of the other print and online publications, they seemed to touch on only one commodity or focus on one area of agriculture. Sandhu and his collaborators wanted the freedom to share topics which were of interest to them; to be able to touch all aspects of agriculture including, fruit, dairy, poultry, vegetables, crops, and innovations in agriculture.
“I think we’ve exceeded that,” Sandhu says proudly. “We wanted an attractive magazine that people would put on their coffee tables and not just throw away. We wanted the articles to be conversation starters.”
The partners and integral team members have changed over the years because of careers or relocation, but Modern Ag Mag’s vision remained the same. The original group stays in touch and supports one another where they can—and all still believe in the project. The publishers have changed the direction a little in terms of what content they want to explore, including more global agricultural topics and a few articles which some may consider controversial, but all stories are of importance to the farming community.
“When we first started, our readership was around 3,000 and now it’s increased to a more refined list of around 8,500 to 10,000. We print more for the Pacific Ag Show in January where we hand out hundreds of copies,” states Sandhu.
The magazine is distributed primarily within BC. But Sandhu would like to see it expand further eastward, double in distribution over the next few years, and include more topics of interest to all of Canada. The team will expand to cover more ground, but first they want to make sure they are getting the magazine into the right hands. Distribution is an important factor that takes time to grow organically.
One of our group suggested we create a publication of our own. We met regularly, began gathering articles and went to people we knew in the industry; and our families helped financially to get the magazine off the ground. It took off from there.
From the beginning the team has artfully juggled jobs, university, and the expansion of the magazine—definitely a lot of late nights and nail-biting before print deadlines, but they all pull together to make it work.
“It was always a struggle, and some issues it was just crazy trying to get ad copy and articles in on time, and sometimes everything was delayed because of one wrong file, but we get it done. We learned a lot about organization and timelines,” laughs Sandhu.
“One of my favourite parts of running the magazine was all the cool people I got to meet along the way and the agriculture events I was able to attend. There are new opportunities that come our way every day.”
Right now, subscriptions to Modern Ag Mag are free to Canadian households and Sandhu would like to see it stay that way.
“It’s free so far with the support of advertisers, but to aid in expansion and be able to get the magazine into readers’ hands there may be a small fee down the road for subscriptions just to cover costs. I never saw this as a business; I saw it as a hobby and something I really wanted to do. I’ve learned a lot of things like responsibility, time management, and how to better interact with people. It was a life-changer for me. I never expected it to be so big but with the love and support we received we’ve been able to succeed. The quality product we put out today keeps me motivated to make it even better.”
SUBSCRIBE TODAY! (free to Canadian addresses).