If you love traveling through the heartland, if your politics are populist, if you have the ability to laugh at yourself, and if your writing, research, and interviewing skills are strong, you can write for the farming trades. These magazines publish articles on every topic from bull sperm to beekeeping, goat farming to organic vegetable farming, as well as cheesemaking, livestock breeding, and cattle ranching.
Farmers want to read about political issues, environmental issues, and legislation issues AS ISSUES APPLY TO THEM. Look at a couple of sample articles on the web to see what I mean, and don’t assume that because you live on one of the coasts that you know better than American farmers what is best for American farmers. The fastest way not to get published by a farming mag is to take a condescending tone. You need to learn to write in plain language, without talking down to readers.
Farm mags also like technical features: Animal and plant breeding news items are almost always winners. Equipment articles also tend to show up in farming mags from time to time. The key here is what I call “pre-research”. Research your topic VERY thoroughly, from many angles, using Google and other directories, indexes and search engines, before you even propose the article. There is nothing a specialized farming magazine editor hates more than a generic, non-specialized query. I highly recommend looking at a sample copy of a magazine you want to write for and googling some of the terms and ideas and article topics you see in it. This is really the best way to do research; you can get an excellent basic farming education that way. After that, visit a working farm and get a feel for farm life and the people who work there and own the place.
Articles about the human side of farming are also good topics; farming is highly person-oriented and human-powered; some parts of the cattle ranching/goat herding/bee keeping/harvesting/etc. process and operation simply cannot be mechanized.
All this said, bear in mind that the writing style for these mags needs to be friendly, open, back fence, NOT homespun, NOT cracker barrel. Watch the use of clichéd aphorisms. A good piece of advice I can give is to do more than just interview subjects. If you are doing an article on how CUPS certification has helped small beef farmers, then VISIT THEIR FARMS! Make yourself known to them. Hang out with them. Listen to their patterns of speech as well as the things they talk about. If you have a good ear, you’ll be able to write not only on topics that are important to them but authentically for them. If you don’t do this, trust me, they WILL know!
Farming trades can be an excellent source of steady income, especially after you’ve got a couple of publications under your belt. If you only sell First North American Serial Rights, you can sell various international rights to mags outside of America. Farming is farming, no matter where it is done. Farming trade articles particularly lend themselves to international sales. I made valuable contacts in England simply by putting a reprint package together and sending it off. A week later, I was rewarded via a phone message is which a North Country accent told me that he couldn’t use what I’d sent him but I should keep in touch as he liked my work and might have work for me in the future.
Check out the markets below and remember: You can plant the seeds of a successful writing career by writing for the farming trades!
Paying Farm Trade Markets:
The Fruit Grower’s News
Pays$100-125 per article
Implement and Tractor
Pays $100-$200 per article, photos included
Pays $25-$400 per article
Angus Beef Bulletin:
Pays $50-$600 per article
Pays $100-$250 per article
Pays $150-$250 per article
Maine Organic Farmer And Gardener
Pays $25-$300 per article
Pays $40-$70 per article
Pays $150-$350 Per Article
Cotton Grower Magazine
Pays $200-$400 per article
David Berlin is a 31-year-old writer who lives on the Jersey Shore. He was paid the princely sum of $65 for his first piece when he was twenty, which kept him in breakfasts at the local Woolworth’s lunch counter, and has been writing for money ever since. He’ll travel anywhere and write anything for anyone if the price is right; he’s written for Antiqueweek, the Well Water Journal, Weatherwise, and a whole host of others. When not at his desk he can be found mooching around his adopted town; eating at the diner and keeping his ears open. You can find him on the web at http://www.groovydaveonline.com.