Mother Earth News is technically in its 50th year of production, although we’ll count next year as its 50th anniversary year. I can still remember the excitement with which I awaited the arrival of my first issue, way back in late 1969 – I was in eighth grade. I’d seen an ad for the new magazine in my first-ever subscription, Rodale’s Organic Gardening and Farming. My folks were skeptical of mail-order for some reason, but I convinced my mother to write a check in exchange for a pile of my hard-earned cash just the same. And that order form, filled out in my C-minus penmanship script with a smudgy No. 2 pencil, found its way to the source. Soon enough, the inaugural issue was in my hands.
As a mildly dyslexic left-hander, I flipped to the back of the magazine and started reading. There was an ad from the Gurney Seed and Nursery Co. in the back – I knew of it because my family had a seed and nursery business in North Dakota, and Gurney was located in Yankton, South Dakota. The headline for the ad boldly stated: SEEDSMEN ARE PEOPLE YOU HAVE TO BE ABLE TO TRUST! Wow, those words, though dated and not inclusive, are more profound today than ever before. In that first issue, I studied an article on the Twin Oaks community project and wondered if my barely-13-year-old self could ever find my way to any semblance of a self-sufficient life. And I devoured an article on how to live well on a modest income by building and growing what you need on a piece of land.
Through the years, I read stories about home-based businesses and even adapted one to my apartment in Chicago, where I went to college and graduate school. I grew much of what we ate in vacant lots, and I sprouted alfalfa, radishes, and beans to sell around the neighborhood. We grew grapes, made beer and wine, canned tomatoes, froze string beans, and generated good cash flow to boot. Mother Earth News had a profound impact on my life. It reinforced my core values of independence, hard work, and helping others. It taught me to raise more than I needed, saving some to sell and more to give those without. It taught me open-mindedness; inclusivity; and respect for the land, water, air, and lives that sustain us. Mother helped me believe I could build wooden boats, our first hoop house, chicken coops, and inexpensive farmhouse furniture. Mother helped me care about conserving, reusing, repurposing, and making do.
We’ll be celebrating our golden anniversary with you by republishing some venerable pieces and images from the past in our upcoming issues. And I’d like you to help us celebrate by telling your stories of discovering Mother and how the greater Mother community has affected your life’s path. Please send an email to me at HWill@MotherEarthNews.com. We’ll devote some space to sharing those stories with our readers in the coming months.
See you in June,