Farmers’ Almanac Managing Editor On ‘Planning Your Day And Growing Your Life’

Nov 22, 2022

It’s pretty rare indeed for a magazine to reach its 204th birthday. But this year, the Farmers’ Almanac did just that. Because of that longevity and even more so, because of its legacy of reflecting Americana in its most authentic form, Fox Tales recently took the opportunity to speak to its managing editor, Sandi Duncan.

The Almanac, owned by the promotional products distributor Geiger, based in Lewiston, Maine, has for two centuries served up a variety of content, from weather predictions to humor, astronomy, and folklore, plus home-related and outdoors topics, such as gardening, cooking, fishing and conservation. It’s published annually, with editions in August and November, and in specialized business and retail editions.

Sandi Duncan

Fox Tales sat down with Duncan on a recent morning to catch up on the Almanac, its business model, and its meaning in American culture. For her part, Duncan is certainly a pioneer in her own right—she’s the first female editor the magazine has had in all that time, and she’s been at the company for 31 years and helmed the Almanac for 28 years. Here are excerpts from our interview, edited for brevity and clarity.

On the brand’s heritage.

We’ve been around since 1818. Back then, the company was print bibles and almanacs. At the time, there would be ads for pharmaceutical companies selling cure-alls. For a long time it was only sold as a promotional product. Businesses would put their ads on the front and back of the almanac, and they’d give them away to customers. Over the years, as our readers started to get away from farming, people here started to think maybe we should get away from the name, but we kept it. You don’t have to be a farmer to enjoy the almanac. We’re seeing a growth in astronomy—that seems to be growing in interest. That’s been an interesting trend in the last five-10 years, when we share info about the moon or about sky watching.

On the mission.

It contains early America at its best. The mission really is a guide to good living. Plan your days and grow your life. It could be nature, or about people, but it’s living your best life. The Almanac was always green before green described respect for the environment.

On adaptation to changing needs.

I’ve been doing the Almanac for 28 years. When I first started, I was like, “I’m not a farmer, I don’t sell farm equipment. Is it for me?” Fast forward 24 years and now there’s a renewed interest in farming. Maybe just for those who grow stuff in their garden. For a long time farming was romanticized, but in the last few years, especially during the pandemic, people were going outside more. People are definitely looking more at the Almanac for framing, whether they have an acre or they have more. People are looking to find out how they can partake in a little bit of farming.

On the audience.

The median age is 45. For a while we’d hear, ‘Oh, my grandfather loved it, my parents loved it.’ And yes, that is true, but they loved it when they were your age, too. It appeals to people in their mid-thirties. They want to figure out how to grow some rosemary, for example, on their balcony. We’ve seen a bit of change in the audience, especially online.

On adapting to the digital age.

When we first got online years ago, it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, how can the Farmers’ Almanac have a website?” But we have to keep up with the times, and reach people in different ways. We need to be on social media as well. We have a very robust website and social media presence. A lot of our growth has been digital for obvious reasons—that’s how a lot of people are consuming information. In the past we would offer, say, a three-year subscription. We also have memberships for the website that include a subscription.

On the state of the business.

We’ve seen some great growth in the last few years as you can imagine, because of the pandemic. Coming up in 2023, with all the uncertainty about the economy, people are starting to look to the Almanac for what’s coming. They use our long-term weather forecasting. It’s still very optimistic, and I think it continues to be a valuable resource, even during turbulent times. Our revenue is primarily advertising—that and the business edition. Magazine distribution in stores has been kind of challenging. Right now there’s just one national distributor—there used to be more. So we’re looking for niche retailers that would sell it—Dollar General, tractor supply stores and the like. Our focus is on how we expand revenue online. We’ll never get away with the print edition, but it is a struggle to get away from that whole industry, including the supply chain.

On the Farmers’ Almanac’s relationship with its sales partner, Fox Associates.

Fox has been a great partner. It sells ads in the retail edition and in our newsletter. Recently, they have also taken on our business edition. They have been able to help us secure ads in the print editions and the business edition.

On what’s next.

Next up is that we’re really trying to figure out with the website how we can expand the community online. How can we cultivate the growing community online, and through that, cultivate not only members, but advertisers as well? That’s going to be our focus for 2023.