In recognition of Grain Farmers of Ontario’s 10th anniversary, Ontario Grain Farmer is talking to staff about the impact that the organization has made. This month we took a look back at the Ontario Grain Farmer magazine with Kim Ratz, production coordinator.
The Ontario Grain Farmer evolved out of the Ontario Corn Producer — what was that transition process like?
Of the three founding organizations, the Ontario Corn Producers’ Association was the only organization that already had a long-established magazine distributed to its membership. Going into the merger, we held several focus groups to ensure a monthly publication was something all members wanted going forward. The end result of those focus groups was to continue with a publication.
It was a natural progression to transform the existing magazine from the founding organization into a magazine for Grain Farmers of Ontario. A new design was developed based on farmer-member feedback. A lot of the existing features of the magazine carried into the new organization with a refreshed and rebranded look and feel. The new publication needed a name, options were narrowed down and voted on. This new publication, the Ontario Grain Farmer magazine, became the flagship publication for the merged organization. It was designed to be the main method of communication with all farmer-members.
How has the magazine changed and evolved over the past decade.
The biggest visual transformation happened when we evolved into Grain Farmers of Ontario. The existing magazine for the Ontario Corn Producers’ Association — the Ontario Corn Producer — went through a complete makeover. Several of the features that existed in the original magazine were translated and morphed into the new design. The inclusion or exclusion of which was determined by farmer-member feedback.
We have had a couple of changes in editors along the way. Claire Cowan was our editor for several years in the beginning and our current managing editor, Rachel Telford, has been our driving force now for almost nine years.
The magazine has gone through two major rebrands over the course of 10 years, the largest rebrand being just two years ago. Many of you likely remember the column of green bars that featured prominently on our cover for a number of years. With a refresh of the Grain Farmers of Ontario branding, it was a natural progression to then refresh our flagship publication to align it with the overall rebrand.
Based on farmer-member feedback, some feature pages, such as In the news, Research Roundup, and The future of grain, have been retired along the way. This has allowed us to focus more on agronomic and research information, updates on our government relations and market development work, and broader industry news and trends.
The content from the Ontario Grain Farmer magazine has always been available online — but as technology developed, we were able to add a Flipbook version to the website to provide a full digital copy of the magazine. Web special articles are posted regularly to offer farmer-members timely information and updates to developing stories.
What has been the response to the magazine from farmer-members and the industry?
We have done three major surveys of farmer-members over the years. As this publication belongs to the membership, we use the survey as a temperature gauge to ensure we are meeting the mark with many aspects of the magazine. Survey results consistently show more than 80 per cent of farmer-members feel the magazine is excellent — and more than 90 per cent say it is their number one source for information from Grain Farmers of Ontario.
We are always receiving positive feedback on the publication and the articles that are featured, as well as the clean look of the magazine. Over the years, we have entered the publication in the Best of CAMA awards program run by the Canadian Agri-Marketing Association, and we were honoured to win the magazine category in 2016 and be a finalist in several other years.
What is the future of the magazine?
The future of the magazine looks bright. Our farmer-members, even younger farmers who are more likely to prefer digital content, have indicated that they read and enjoy the print version of the magazine. We often hear that the magazine is passed along to family members and workers on the farm. As long as our farmer-members find value in the publication we will continue to produce and evolve the content around their needs. •