When my Grandpa Altvater, my mom’s dad, hitched up Buster and Barney — a team of workhorses he broke himself — and set out for a day of cultivating, I’m sure he never imagined that one day this dusty and dirty workload would be replaced by a self-driving tractor with air conditioning and a stereo.
Or, that his handwritten farm ledgers of revenue and expenses would be upgraded to self-computing electronic spreadsheets, and that yield monitors would tell precisely where you got it right and where crops struggled.
I was only a baby when he unexpectedly passed from an aneurysm, but my mom says he loved those horses and used them often, even after he had a tractor. He had three different teams of them over the years and was one of the latter farmers to eventually sell them off. It was hard to let go.
In agriculture, like most businesses, we are constantly looking for ways to do the job better, more efficiently and more economically. Transitioning into something different is sometimes hard to accept, so I hope Michigan Farmer readers will embrace the new way we’re delivering the same features, news, columns and educational stories.
Starting in January, Michigan Farmer and Ohio Farmer magazines are combining with a sister publication, American Agriculturist, which will expand its existing northeast and mid-Atlantic region to include Michigan and Ohio.
That doesn’t mean Michigan Farmer will cease to exist. It will continue to offer — as it’s done for several years now — all the same information published in print on the website at michiganfarmer.com.
And, if you are signed up for our daily newsletter, Michigan Farmer Update, you will continue to receive Michigan and national ag stories every morning through email. This allows you to keep up on hot local topics, important national agricultural news, and daily market commentary that can impact your operation. If you’re not signed up, I invite you to visit https://pgs.farmprogress.com/newsletter-signup.
Since 1843, Michigan Farmer has served Michigan farmers and ranchers with information to help them maximize their productivity and profitability, while remaining environmentally conscious. Each issue is packed with information, ideas, news and analysis.
So, why the decision to retire the print version? Michigan Farmer is part of a series of ag-related sister publications bought by the global company Informa four years ago. Informa is the largest exhibitions organizer in the world. With COVID-19 shutting down physical events, including the Farm Progress Show and Husker Harvest Days, it’s caused the need for reconfiguring — not unlike many other event-based businesses.
This move allows us to be more cost-efficient, while still supplying you with a print publication offering Michigan news and a new breadth of ag industry information.
Change is inevitable, and it brings on a gamut of emotions. Even though many farmers still prefer settling into the La-Z-Boy and licking their fingers to turn the pages, the next generation of farmers is relying more and more exclusively on digital information. By condensing our print publications, we’re still giving you that experience, while the online option provides real-time updates.
The switch to more digital-only information was already slowly taking root, but there’s no denying the pandemic has accelerated that move to a level not anticipated.
Michigan Farmer beginnings
D.D.T. Moore bought the subscription list of The Western Farmer in 1843. He changed the name to Michigan Farmer and moved the offices from Detroit to Jackson. The Michigan Farmer of the 1880s was an eight-page weekly containing sections on agriculture and horticulture, a veterinary department, and a household department, as well as news summaries, pictures of prize-winning stock, poetry and more.
It is sad to say the masthead, which reads Michigan Farmer on the front cover, is being retired. The only other time it stopped production in its 177-year history was during the Civil War when it was not published from 1864-69.
As the owner and editor, Moore laid out his plans in that first issue. "The primary objects to which the columns of the Farmer will be devoted are to introduce useful Improvements to the Practice and Science of Agriculture in all its various departments — to improve the cultivation of the rich and fertile soil of the West and to elevate the standing and ennoble the character of Western Agriculturalists."
Today, Michigan farmers are not really considered “Western Agriculturists” — another example of how times have changed. As editor, I am not leaving, and my goals remain primarily centered around Michigan Farmer’s early foundation.
After a long day at work, my mom recalls, Grandpa Altvater would retire the horses, feed the hogs and sheep and eventually make his way to his living room chair — and oftentimes nestle in with the Michigan Farmer magazine. She’s told me several times how proud he would be to have his granddaughter be the editor. It’s a position I’ve held for 17 years and continue to take pride in serving Michigan’s vast agricultural industry.
Grandpa Altvater did not stop farming because management options were changing. It took him some time, but he eventually embraced the transition. My hope is that Michigan Farmer readers will do the same.