Why has The Mother Earth News, a magazine born in the early 1970s, progressed from a limited-distribution newsprint publication to a glossy full-color publication with a rapidly expanding readership when most print media are losing circulation?
Like most successful ventures, the publication has evolved to increase its potential audience and risen to meet the challenges of the times. It was birthed when environmental awareness was awakened and the world was threatened with nuclear destruction. Now the threat is environmental warming, and practical information on how to grow your own food and live a more sustainable lifestyle is in high demand. The magazine’s twin “back to nature” and “self-reliance” messages have attracted new audiences who are as interested in wind turbines as heirloom tomatoes.
The present Editor in Chief of the publication is Cheryl Long, who might also be appropriately titled “Grandmother to the World.” Unlike the grandmotherly image of an older lady fussing around the kitchen preparing a holiday meal, she is responsible for assembling and publishing the magazine and also handling the publication’s newsletters, blogs and events. The most recent Mother Earth event was the first Mother Earth News Fair that was held in rural Pennsylvania at the Seven Springs Mountain Resort on Sept. 25-26, 2010.
Like many of us in the media business who are coping with rapidly changing modern technology, she “had her adventures” during the Fair attempting to coordinate not only the magazine staff and their assignments, but also trying to get i-pads, cell phones, flip cameras, video cameras and computers to communicate with each other while also making presentations. She exercised a steadying hand with her editors and IT staff during these technological glitches, rather than degrading into unproductive shouting matches and recriminations.
The News Fair featured renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, cooking real food, organic gardening, green transportation, green building, modern homesteading and harmonious living with the natural world. Included were seminars, speakers, demonstrations, fun events for children as well as outside venues for an eclectic mix of animals, solar, wind and water-capture technologies. One of the oldest, and most welcome, pieces of technology was an old one-lunger that powered a pair of ice-cream churns that provided a cooling treat on two unusually hot September days.
Not only were people drawn to some of the marvels of modern technology, but a pair of enormous draft horses that the Amish work every day to extract timber from the nearby mountains and two sets of alpacas drew immediate attention. The animals seemed as much interested in people-watching as the people did in animal-watching.
As I write this in the early morning of the second day of the fair, attendance figures are not available. However, many speakers spoke to standing-room-only crowds, with some attendees driving over 1,000 miles for the event.
I spoke to a number of participants and exhibitors. The exhibitors were universally pleased with the large audience. The only regrets that I heard from those who attended was that that they could not go to all the sessions that they wanted to hear in only two days.
With the experienced gained from holding one successful fair, Long said that plans were under way to hold three or four fairs next year in different geographic areas. If the present fair is any indication, I have little doubt that these will attract similar vendors and a similarly enthusiastic audience.