A couple of years ago, we told you about our Editorial Advisory Group and invited you to join. These days, nearly 30,000 of you are taking our online surveys — choosing the most appealing cover images, rating your interest in article topics, ranking your favorite departments in the magazine, and more. The surveys create a stronger connection between MOTHER EARTH NEWS and its audience, which gives you a better magazine with more of what you want. Frankly, we think MOTHER EARTH NEWS has better interaction with our readers than any other magazine out there.

The surveys have been so helpful that now, before we assign an article, we include the topic in a survey, asking members of the Advisory Group to rate their interest in it. If the topic gets a good score, we schedule an article to cover it. If the topic gets a poor score, we move on and choose another idea that a larger number of readers are interested in.

As you may already know, we use the surveys for more than just choosing articles and cover images: We look to them to help us understand your online habits in order to make our website better. We use them to collect your firsthand experiences and create articles from that information, such as The Best Tomatoes to Grow Where You Live (February/March 2010) and a report coming up in our next issue on the worst regional garden pests. The survey system lets you tell us which region or state you live in so that we can sort all of the answers we receive, creating region-specific advice about gardening, homesteading and wiser living in general.

We’ve also set up special-interest survey groups so we can communicate with those of you who have specialized expertise. So far, we have subgroups for gardening and poultry.

For 2011, we have several exciting projects in the works, and we’ll use input from the surveys to guide us on many of them. Here are some examples:

Garden Weeds Survey. This will identify the worst weeds in each region and aggregate control tips from readers and experienced gardeners. We’ll use this information as the basis for an article that will be in the August/September 2011 issue.

Website Redesign. Expect to see surveys that will help us improve our website and e-newsletters by learning more about what you want and how you use them.

Local MOTHERs. We want to assess your interest in possible blogs and/or social groups for each state and province on our website. These groups would be state-based venues for “news, notes and networking with neighbors,” with contributions from readers and local experts. Simply put, while the MOTHER EARTH NEWS website would be the platform, the content would come from you.

Many thanks to those of you who are helping shape MOTHER EARTH NEWS by participating in our Editorial Advisory Group. If you’re not already a member of the Advisory Group, we hope you’ll join!