An Office Tour That'll Make You Want To Quit Your Job

On the second floor of an old house in Hudson, New York, a small, unassuming editorial team of eight is helping to reshape the way we view food. The magazine's name? Modern Farmer. Its focus? Reporting aimed at both the urban and rural individual who cares about sustainability and the future of food. A wide audience if ever there was one. Stories range from topics on Japanese craft beer trends to changes in California's chicken laws.
The brand, celebrating its two-year anniversary (today!), is certainly having a moment (after winning a National Magazine Award after just three issues, and getting a story in The New Yorker last week), but its effortlessly chic editor-in-chief, Ann Marie Gardner, is as humble as ever. They just want to get people excited and curious about where their food comes from — with the occasional cute goat roundup, of course. We drove up to the Hudson Valley to see Modern Farmer's clean, light-filled office space and hear about what's next for the magazine team. Even the most die-hard city-lover will be unable to resist this country charm.
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Photographed by Winnie Au.
Ann Marie Gardner, editor-in-chief

Probably not the first question we should ask, but please tell us about your dogs.
"Everyone always laughs at me because I have three dogs I'm attempting to walk in Hudson. They think I'm a dog walker. I'm like, 'Yes, actually, I am.' But, at my house (in Germantown nearby), I don't have to put them on a leash and they get so excited if I take one out. I bring them to the office and it can be a pain — if I work a 12-hour day it's an interruption to take them. At 4 they start barking for dinner. But, I sometimes make myself bring them to work because it actually makes me leave my desk. It's so cozy and comforting having them here."
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Photographed by Winnie Au.
Most of your team relocated to the area to work here, and you've lived upstate for 14 years. Have you all embraced the country lifestyle?
"They just jumped in! When [executive editor] Cara Parks moved here, she immediately entered the town pie contest. I love that kind of enthusiasm."
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Photographed by Winnie Au.
Ann Marie's cork board is filed with outdoor location clippings, and of course, animals.
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Photographed by Winnie Au.
How do you see your brand?
"Internally, none of us look at it as just a magazine. We are already living in the future. The point of the print magazine is that we were creating a brand that no one knew existed before. As a content platform, we are finding the people who want to engage with us on all these levels. They want to be a part of Goat Week and have the T-shirt; they love the Twitter feed; they want to come to an event. People asked me originally why I would want to launch print in this climate. No one really got it. But, the many sides of it made people get it."
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Photographed by Winnie Au.
Ann Marie examines proofs for the upcoming winter edition.
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Photographed by Winnie Au.
You cover both serious movements in the food industry and also lighthearted animal pieces. How do you strike that balance?
"We originally had Tumblr before the magazine came out. And, we realized early on how much people love goats. The whole thing is just funny. The team has such a good sense of humor and has fun with it. As one writer said, 'If you're going to have fun writing it, they'll have fun reading it.' We definitely subscribe to that kind of thought."
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Photographed by Winnie Au.
Every fabulous company needs some flair to represent!
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Photographed by Winnie Au.
Mid-interview, Ann Marie's dog Thurber (on the right) needed a little outdoor relief. "Do you mind if we continue it outside?" Nope!
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Photographed by Winnie Au.
Your office furniture is fabulous, where did you get it?
"Two years ago today was when we got funding — and were working off of lawn furniture. I found these desks, they came from some kind of school in Wisconsin or Michigan. They are from the '50s or '60s, and I managed to get enough for the whole office. It was amazing that we found them."
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Photographed by Winnie Au.
The entire studio is light-filled and serene.
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Photographed by Winnie Au.
Cara Parks, executive editor

Who do you see as your readership?
"Everyone from people who are changing the way they grow in small hobby farms to larger farms in the Midwest to people dealing with drought farming on the West Coast and southwest. And, also, people who are really concerned with where their food comes from and how it's getting to them — those concerned about environmental impact and labor issues.

"People are much more aware that this 'farm to fork' idea is really simplistic, and doesn't explain that much, and anything can fall under it. So, I think our readers understand that's much more complex, and they want to hear more about the stories behind the food than just about the food itself — which is what I want to focus on, so I'm very glad to be here."
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Photographed by Winnie Au.
What is the main message you're trying to get across?
"I think we just want to show people that farming is something that isn't this pastoral, idyllic, backward-facing profession. That it has a place in the modern world. The things farmers are doing and the solutions they're coming up with are really fascinating, and can be as relevant to an urban reader as a rural reader."
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Photographed by Winnie Au.
What's your specialty or area of interest?
"I'm really interested in ways people are using technologies to preserve heritage plants and re-introducing different types of agriculture. I think that there is a realization that bio-diversity is more possible than it looks at first blush. We can really do a lot with bringing these specific plants that are damaged back in the U.S. and elsewhere. I think the U.S. has a really good community right now to do that."
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Photographed by Winnie Au.
A quiet conference room has a turning coffee table, which is great for eating-meetings.
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Photographed by Winnie Au.
What is most interesting about the food industry to you?
"I was briefly a cook and baker a long time ago, and love to cook. I was just talking to [chef] Sean Brock, who released his heritage cookbook about knowing your producers, and where your food comes from, and how it really changes the way you make food and the respect you bring to your cooking decisions. And, that's really fascinating to me."
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Photographed by Winnie Au.
Another office cutie, Earl, loves Ann Marie's vintage chair.
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Photographed by Winnie Au.
An old type cabinet houses back issues of the magazine.
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Photographed by Winnie Au.
Jesse Hirsch, senior editor

How do you go about describing Modern Farmer to people?
"I just saw a Facebook comment about a story the other day basically saying the information was something that farmers don't need to hear. It was a story about community gardening. And, a real farmer who has 1,100 acres isn't going to care about someone in Seattle who has a little plot with cucumbers. The commenter asked, 'Is this supposed to be helpful for real farmers?' And, I do think that is always the question and the line that we are straddling.

"There are farmers who find what we are putting out to be interesting because they might learn about techniques going on in other parts of the world they had never heard of before, or different trends. However, it's not a technical magazine. You can't fix a tractor from the basis of what you read in Modern Farmer. It's really written in a way that's supposed to be hopefully for farmers and people who care about where their food comes from."
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Photographed by Winnie Au.
What do you think of the "farm-to-table" trend?
"It's like any one of these trends. The word 'artisanal' comes out, and it does have some form of specificity and meaning — people who are perfecting some type of craft with their hands, like making butter or something. And, there is something to be said for that. [Handmade butter] is delicious and better than what you buy at the supermarket. But, then, like anything else, [the word] gets discovered by marketing people or brands who aren't making great butter, and just realized it's a good adjective to throw on there.

"I think 'farm-to-table' is one of those words as well. But, I think it's done a lot of good things, too. I think the next phase is you eat at a restaurant and assume that your food came from an organic farm. That it just becomes something you don't have to brag about — just standard restaurant practice."
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Photographed by Winnie Au.
Give us an example of some of the crazy news items you find.
"As a team, no one came from farming backgrounds, we all came from journalism careers, which means we like to ask a lot of questions — curious minds. That helps us dig up these things that if we had been farming for 20 years we wouldn't necessarily think were interesting. There was a story a while ago on this sheep that ran away from its farm, and went into a cave for a number of years, and came out like a Brillo pad. It's very funny — Shrek the sheep, in New Zealand.

"And, we were just sitting around and thought: This doesn't make sense. Why did it get like that? You would think it would shed that wool at some point. Then, we thought, you know what? Sheep must have evolved in such a way that they need us to cut them or they are completely unyielding. So, I called a sheep professor in Wisconsin, and he was like, 'Yes, that is true.' Domestic sheep have come to a level that they need to be trimmed every year. It can be dangerous; a sheep can tip over and not be able to right itself and starve to death."
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Photographed by Winnie Au.
'Tis true: Goats really rule the traffic roost (and throw shade) at Modern Farmer.
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Photographed by Winnie Au.
You relocated to Hudson from San Francisco. How has that transition been for you?
"When they were first talking about Modern Farmer, it had been discussed that there would maybe be a headquarters in the city, and it just didn't make sense. Right here we are in the middle of actual farmland. We have access to so much delicious produce all the time. And, if we need to go out and talk to a farmer, they are right there, rather than feeling so separated and insulated in the city. So, yes, I love the Hudson Valley for the food that we can get here."
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Photographed by Winnie Au.
The goat love permeates everything — even the chalkboard art.
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Photographed by Winnie Au.
Blessed with character, the wood floor boards creak a little when you walk through the space.
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Photographed by Winnie Au.
Last question. We have to ask, Ann Marie, do you farm on your own land?
"If you could have seen my garden this year... it was a disaster! I mean, it's a weed pile. I didn't have any time. It takes work, and every morning and night you have to weed. I have a green thumb, but I think I'm realistic enough to know that starting a business and having a decent-looking garden — there's only so much you can do."