Modern Farmer Loses Edit Staff, but the Magazine Might Survive

Rift between owner and founder led to walkout

It's been less than a year since Modern Farmer, the Hudson, N.Y.-based magazine covering agriculture for a largely urban audience, won its first National Magazine Award for Best Magazine Section.

Unfortunately, that award could also be its last, with the publication's edit staff pulling a New Republic-style walkout in the wake of a clash between the magazine's owner and its (now former) editor in chief. 

According to a report in the New York Times this afternoon, Modern Farmer "became a magazine without an editorial staff on Friday, when its remaining paid editors walked out its doors. The future of what remains of the Modern Farmer brand is uncertain."

The quarterly magazine, founded in early 2013 by Ann Marie Gardner (who was also its editor in chief until last month), was targeted at readers who, despite not necessarily being farmers themselves, had developed an interest in food politics and agriculture. It was a critical hit right out of the gate, as well as the occasional subject of mockery. (To its credit, Modern Farmer seemed well aware of its "farming for hipsters" image, as evidenced by its tongue-in-cheek Twitter account.) 

By late 2014, however, reports of internal unrest and financial troubles were coming out of Hudson. Gardner had developed a tense relationship with the magazine's majority owner, Canadian investor Frank Giustra. Giustra, who had never invested in a magazine before, was impatient for the company to turn a profit, according to a lengthy profile of Modern Farmer in The New Yorker last November. By December, Gardner had stepped down as editor in chief.

In an interview with Mashable today, Modern Farmer's executive editor Cara Parks confirmed the New York Times report, adding that there had been a clash of "ideas about the publication and what our strengths were." When asked whether the magazine might continue to publish online, Parks said, "it's possible, but certainly unlikely for the foreseeable future."

There appears to be a chance that the magazine may live on in print, albeit with an entirely new staff. Although Modern Farmer's advertisers were told last month that there would be no spring issue, a PR firm representing Giustra told the Times that "the magazine would be published in the summer and replacements would be hired."