Since 2008 Edible Finger Lakes magazine has been a solid influence in the local media landscape, delivering stories about the food, beverage and farm industries in the Finger Lakes. The publication is a well-loved periodical that comes out every two months and is distributed in over 300 locations around the region.
“Our mission since day one has been to connect the people who live here, and those who visit, to all the great food and drink of the region,” said publisher Michael Welch. “We search for the most important and interesting food stories and bring those to light. We want to celebrate all the farmers, chefs, brewers and winemakers who are doing good things and making this area so special.”
In March the 41st edition was all ready for printing when the state shut down. Businesses that advertise and distribute the magazine closed while people were told to stay at home. Without money from advertisers and no way to get new editions delivered, the future of Edible Finger Lakes was in jeopardy.
So, like many other businesses right now, Edible Finger Lakes is pivoting. They are ready to send the next issue to the printer but need revenue to pay contributors, designers, printers and other expenses—and so the company is asking the community for help. They announced a campaign to save the magazine and it requires 3,000 new subscribers.
“The two essential businesses that we depend on—our printer and the post office—are still at work,” said Welch. “We realized that if we got enough readers, who have been enjoying the magazine for free, to start subscribing, we could continue publishing and get stories out there. Not everyone is on Facebook or Instagram and print media is a valuable source of information for many in the Finger Lakes.”
For $36, subscribers get six print issues. A two-year subscription costs $63. All subscribers will receive a bonus gift: an e-cookbook with recipes from well-known farm-to-table chefs from all over the Finger Lakes.
To help make an even larger impact, the company is donating 10% of all new subscriptions to regional food banks. Foodlink, Foodbank of Central NY and Foodbank of the Southern Tier will receive financial support from Edible Finger Lakes subscribers.
“Our regional food banks have relationships with local farms where they purchase produce at fair prices for the farmer and provide healthy, nutritious food to people in need,” Welch said. “This is a great partnership for us as we work towards sustainable agriculture and food access in the Finger Lakes. Farmers shouldn’t be asked to donate all of their goods and lose their livelihood. And people in need should get the best produce we can provide. We want to make sure through our donations that the food banks can continue to pay for local produce and feed people well.”
“We get donations from local farmers, but we also spend money on their goods as well, to support our local growers and the economy,” said Lynn Hy, chief development officer at Food Bank of Central New York in Syracuse. For every dollar that comes in to us, we are able to provide enough food for three meals back into the community. Those dollars allow us to purchase the products that are most in demand and that we can distribute back into the communities we serve. It’s so important to have fresh produce, lean meats and low-fat dairy products.”
Increase in demand at local foodbanks has been dramatic and many have had to change how they operate to accommodate this. According to Martha Bush, Rochester-based Foodlink chief marketing officer, visits to their website by people looking for emergency food have gone up by 300% since the pandemic hit.
“We are purchasing double the amount of food that we were last year, because food donations are down and demand is up,” said Bush. “Cash donations are really critical at this point because now we have to go out in the market and compete with everybody else to buy the food we’re distributing.”
“During the month of March, we saw a 20% increase in the number of households that were seeking food from the emergency food network in our 11 counties,” said Hy. “These are record levels that we have never seen before. We know this is going to have long-term effects on our community.”
Followers of Edible Finger Lakes have long been making an impact on the regional economy and supporting local communities in their own way.
“85% of our readers tell us that they have made purchases of local goods based on something they read in the magazine,” said Welch. “That’s a huge economic impact for the Finger Lakes. We think it’s vital that we keep telling stories and helping lift up the region through publishing the magazine and we need new subscribers to do that.”
“People tell me all the time that they visited a U-pick farm, tried a local wine or went to a farm-to-table restaurant because we featured it in the magazine,” said Welch. “For years local businesses were the ones who made sure those stories got told. Now we are asking readers to help us continue our mission. We hope they think what we are doing is worth it.”
ABOUT EDIBLE FINGER LAKES
Edible Finger Lakes was launched in 2008 by Michael Welch and his wife Zoe Becker. They joined Edible Communities, a network of publishers across the US and Canada whose mission is to highlight and celebrate the local foods movement of the North American foodshed. Edible Finger Lakes’s content covers the 14 counties of the Finger Lakes region. Their stories are produced by a team of freelance photographers, writers and designers. In 2017, well-known and successful local entrepreneur Ted Marks joined as a co-owner of the business. They have produced over 40 editions of the publication and distribute it across the Finger Lakes.