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Growing pains at the WFJ
The newsletter about food and farming in Frome becomes the newsletter about food and farming in Somerset
Call me naive, but voraciously reading regular articles on food and farming in the Frome area is, it seems, more of an esoteric pursuit than I thought.
Despite various efforts, the evidence of that is in this newsletter’s readership growth, which has stagnated for some time. In fact, compared to what I originally imagined, you could say that it’s barely gotten off the ground.
As a result, the WFJ is not in a remotely financially sustainable position, and in its current guise at its current rate of growth, would take about three years before I’d consider it to be. In an ideal world, that wouldn’t matter. But, should anyone need reminding, this world is far from that.
And so, the time has come for a change. From now on, the WFJ’s focus will be less about Frome, and much more about Somerset as a whole. In a sense, that’s not so much a big deal – much of the the WFJ has covered Somerset as a subject, more broadly, or in contextual way anyway, including in the articles:
Saving the planet… with cows?, which featured farmers and graziers in Salisbury and Witham Friary
The rise of the mega farm, which examined what issues industrial farming has wrought on the county, including residents’ predicament in Sutton Veny
The land of cheese and cider, which ruminated on why the county has become synonymous with such food items
Decarbonising Somerset, which talked about where local councils are failing to tackle issues relating to food and farming
Bath’s newest restaurant wants to be Bath’s best restaurant, which laid out the approach and aspirations of Beckford Canteen
The ‘grain-to-glass’ philosophy of Somerset’s newest brewery, which stops off at places like Peasedown St John, Bristol, and Warminster
Or even last week’s post – Helping local people make greener, healthier food choices – which, though about a community-driven food truck specifically for Frome, hinges on a Start-up course taking bursaried applications from Somerset residents
I hate to say it, but – considering it takes up roughly two days of my week, every week – the WFJ should, at least partly, be categorised as ‘business’. And be treated as such – pitching this newsletter as a Somerset publication rather than Frome one will essentially market it to 480,000 potential readers, rather than the current potential of 34,000. Should things scale relatively based on the current readership, that’s more than enough potential readers – and, more relevantly, more than enough potential paying readers – to keep this ship afloat.
But then, remuneration isn’t the primary driver of this publication. If it was, I’d be looking to get in front of as many people as realistically possible, and therefore make the geographic focus the whole of the South West. Or even the UK.
If that were to happen however, it would either dilute or neuter the WFJ of one of its key principles – that being localism – which is an important part in not just how readers understand and connect with their food, but how I explore it too. As important as they are, I’m not that interested in writing about, say, the unique farm-to-table approach pioneered by Crocadon in Cornwall, or the farmers growing climate-friendly beans and pulses in Norfolk for Hodmedods, when there are so many interesting and untold stories in this part of the country which relate to and can inspire the people around them.
That said, certain aspects of local identity might have to take more of a backseat from here on. I will, for instance, miss writing deep-dives on specific hero dishes and drinks in Frome, and cataloguing the town’s mince pie options. But then I’m not ruling out adapting those things entirely.
What certainly won’t change round here is the kind of regular, original, comprehensively researched, magazine-like content you’ve been receiving thus far. More specifically, in the coming weeks you can expect to read about:
The micro-dining experience with a strong hyperlocal bent
Why, in the Land of Cheese, doesn’t Somerset eat dairy cows?
The local grain network dedicated to bringing you a better loaf
How Somerset Council’s new food strategy could change what we eat
Somerset’s new four-wheeled roving cheese seller
The owner of London’s most famous sandwich shop moves west
Why a pint of organic Somerset milk costs 60p
The intersection of food and fibre, where sustainable food means sustainable clothes
How a farmers’ market made a Bristol commuter town a better place to live
Perhaps, given the above, it’s worth reiterating – while the framing will seem a little different, readers of the WFJ won’t notice too much change. It’s also a good time to remind potential subscribers what they’re getting. Which is occasional stories in their inbox for free, or weekly articles for the sum of £3.50 per month / £35 a year.
If any of the above actually makes you want to unsubscribe, then that’s okay. This new tack won’t, I suppose, be to everyone’s taste. Which, for the record, as well as needing to happen, I’m looking forward to happening – for the prospect of serving and informing more people as much as potentially actually getting the WFJ to cover its costs.