Lesley Lorenz is combining her love for farming, marketing and all things local as publisher of Island Farm & Garden magazine.
In the magazine, Lorenz shares stories of what is or isn’t working for them on their farm and interviews respected local professionals. Filled with profiles, features, informative articles, photos, recipes and more, Island Farm & Garden is published five times a year.
Lorenz is the publisher, while her husband, Mark Drysdale, is the general manager. They operate out of their five-acre farm in Yellow Point.
Lorenz is the former owner of Nanaimo Magazine, while Drysdale is manager of the Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce and former executive director of Tourism Nanaimo. Lorenz sold Nanaimo Magazine five years ago and started Island Farm & Garden two years ago this September.
Lorenz and Drysdale wanted to farm, but they didn’t have a lot of background in farming. Drysdale grew up on a farm as a kid and had great memories of the farm but hadn’t established one, while Lorenz had never farmed but was really interested in gardening and was open to new experiences. As they were doing their research and looking at properties, Lorenz says they found a lot of information from the U.K. or the States, but not much of what they found was local.
“On the other hand, when you talked to local people, they had tons of expert advice,” she said.
Lorenz thought there were probably other people out there who were looking for this kind of local information, and the magazine was born.
“There were all kinds of things we would run into, and I would write about them, and I was blogging, so I thought I’d turn it into work,” said Lorenz. “I try to write from the point of view that ‘we’re trying this, and sometimes it doesn’t work out’ … we’re not trying to paint ourselves as experts.”
Lorenz and Drysdale have ducks, goats and chickens on their farm, and they grow vegetables and herbs, tomatoes and garlic. Lorenz makes hanging baskets, and they recently added bees to the farm.
Lorenz finds people in agriculture are incredibly nice, and she really enjoys connecting with the people she gets to work with.
“They’re really happy to give you their advice or even give you a hand,” she said. “Islanders, and farmers in particular, they’re just really nice people.”
Lorenz says one of the great things about working on the magazine is how everyone helps each other — they’ll often work with the people who advertise in the magazine or about whom they write when they need something on the farm, and local businesses are very supportive of the magazine.
“I really believe in local — that’s so important,” she said.
Lorenz says many of her story ideas come from readers, who ask her questions or suggest ideas. As well, Lorenz keeps track of events across Vancouver Island such as fairs and wine tours and finds stories to tie in with them, and she writes about what they need to do on their farm.
“The next thing I have to do, I figure someone else will too,” she said with a laugh.
Lorenz started offering a digital version of the magazine this past January, and since then, a lot of people have been reading from all over the world.
“That is something I didn’t expect, which I really like,” she said. “Because of that, I started doing a lot of agri-tourism pieces. Up to that point, I was really writing for the farmer, and now I’m writing for the tourist coming to see the farm.”
Lorenz says the biggest challenge with producing the magazine is how much manpower she is able to offer.
“I have to be very creative,” she said, noting she does a lot of design work, writing, photography and advertising sales herself. “The amount of work I have to put into it probably the biggest challenge.”
Since May, Kayla Werezak has been interning with Lorenz, and Lorenz says that has been a great help.
“It’s so terrific to have Kayla doing some interning,” she said. “Kayla is my prime volunteer, and sometimes people will offer a photograph or article, and that’s so appreciated.”
Lorenz says her favourite part of publishing the magazine, by far, is the people she meets.
“People are really, really nice,” she said. “They’re helpful, they’re kind, they’re resilient, and they’re totally wonderful.”
Lorenz and Drysdale currently distribute 10,000 copies of the magazine Island-wide at livestock feed stores and garden centers and all Vancouver Island Regional Library branches.
The magazine is also available digitally at www.islandfarmandgarden.ca.
In between issues, Lorenz shares anything topical through blogging, Facebook and Twitter.
Lorenz hopes the magazine provides helpful information, inspiration and even a few laughs.
“I guess I just like to share my experiences and think [readers] will take something from it, whether it’s laughing at when I screw up, or realizing ‘oh, I didn’t know I could save tomato seeds,’” she said. “Also, for my advertisers … I think it also helps people get their message out. I provide a way to do that, a conduit for sharing information that maybe isn’t there otherwise.”
“It’s really nice we have people supporting agriculture through our magazine,” she added. “I have quite a few people who are consistently supportive, and I totally appreciate that.”