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My Farmstead Life: 

Living in Maine from 1973 to 1988                                                                  

The 15 years I spent as a back-to-the-land farmer and publisher

By George J. Frangoulis

A few years after I graduated from college, I left a good job in Connecticut and moved to an old farmhouse in northern New England. I had never before lived a country life. Yet I decided to become a self-sufficient farmer, a back-to-the-lander. I also chose a very cold climate for my backwoods lifestyle – The State of Maine – thus making my experiment in rustic living an even greater challenge.

In 1973, I moved to Blue Hill, Maine. So, without any real experience or knowledge of basic agriculture, I was determined to become a successful, self-sufficient farmer. My plan was ambitious: I would grow a big organic garden and raise livestock for food; I would heat my home with wood; I would live in harmony with the seasons, and in harmony with the environment. It was now a done deal.

And so I wondered about my plan. I asked myself if I could even survive life in rural Maine. But I was undeterred. Yes, I did live and thrive in the rugged, hardscrabble countryside of northern New England, as a back-to-the-land publisher/farmer, for the duration of 15 years! After operating from Blue Hill for a few years, I relocated The Farmstead Press to Freedom, Maine, and named the new farmstead Sugar Bush Farm.

During my farmstead life in Maine, I raised food from my garden and barnyard; I learned to grow abundant crops of organic vegetables, fruits and berries; I also raised a variety of small stock, including goats, rabbits, chickens, turkeys, and pigs. I put all these naturally and organically grown food products into the smoke house, root cellar, larder and freezer. I ate heartily and healthily.

I was soon raising more food than I could consume. My excess farm production – organic produce, fresh eggs, goat’s milk and cheese, smoked hams, bacon, sausage and turkeys, young goat kids and lambs – was sold from my farm stand or at the livestock auction. I also sold seasonally grown organic produce to local restaurants.

As it turned out, our most profitable cash crop wasn’t all the marvelous food from my harvested crops. It was a publication borne from the bounty of the imagination: FARMSTEAD Magazine. 

Because of my strong desire to create a publishing business, I launched The Farmstead Press in 1973. It was established to publish specialty magazines and books for reader interested in self-sufficient living and environmental issues. It proved to be a successful business enterprise for 15 years.

Its editorial proposition appealed to me personally. I was the magazine’s quintessential reader. I wanted and needed the information my magazine promised to provide. What’s more, my, farmstead (home, barn, garden, and orchard), would serve as the publication’s laboratory. These were the reasons I started FARMSTEAD Magazine.

FARMSTEAD Magazine’s editorial mission was the key to its viability and growth. It became a successful publishing business. In the course of 15 years, its readership grew from a few hundred to many thousands, who were loyally attracted to its information-rich pages. Its accessible, how-to content accounted for these circulation gains.

As a result of this robust readership growth, advertisers also came to appreciate the magazine. The sales of ad space increased greatly over the years, making paid advertising a substantial revenue source.

While FARMSTEAD Magazine grew and prospered, additional business opportunities arose. New business was developed from book publishing and spin-off publications, including the American Gardener magazine, for homeowners with yards and small gardens, and The Animal Husbandry Journal, for farmers with small livestock.

In 1988, I decided to pursue other interests. Consequently, I sold my magazines and took the position as professor of Journalism at the University of Alabama’s College of Communication and Chair of its Magazine Publishing Program. While at UA, I taught a variety of journalism courses, including writing, editing, design and production, fundamentals of publishing, as well as media marketing and sales.

I have also served as adjunct professor of journalism at Judson College in Marion, Ala., and the University of Montevallo. Since moving from Maine to Alabama, I have worked for the past 28 years as a college teacher of journalism and mass communication,  as well as media professional for commercial print (New York Times) and broadcast (WVUA-TV) enterprises. .

Over these years I never lost my interest in magazine and book publishing, as well as my interest in the environment, sustainability and self-sufficient living . While teaching journalism classes for the University of Alabama, Judson College and the University of Montevallo, I continued to work as adviser, publisher and editor for student-produced publications. These publications included ALABAMA WEST, MUCKLE RIDGE and GREEN FALCON Magazines. I also launched ORGANIC BUZZ MAGAZINE and EARTHWRIGHT MAGAZINE.

George J. Frangoulis                                                                                         

Publisher & Editorial Director