Back to the Beginning

Hank Will reflects on the path that led him to GRIT Magazine, and on to a new position with MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

Pond

The sun sets over a pond at Hank's farm, a spot of much contemplation, magnificent beauty, and memories already made as well as yet to come.

Photo by Hank Will

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When I was a kid, I loved to spend as much time outdoors as possible. Along the way, I grew to love gardening, growing trees, fishing, camping, and just about every other activity that would give me an excuse to get out of the house. I know my interest in the outdoors was key to my interest in studying plant biology and ecology in school. I even sought jobs that would offer me independence and a chance to be outside. And though I dreamt of being a farmer or a grassland ranger, among the earliest of those bouts of gainful employment was a paper route and a lawn-mowing route.

What those early jobs did for me was offer some financial independence and the wherewithal to lobby my folks to make my first couple of mail-order purchases. I need to preface this slightly – my folks were not real trusting of the mail-order concept, but in the 1960s, I desperately desired to subscribe to a magazine called Organic Gardening and Farming. My 10-year-old mind just knew I could build better soil and grow better vegetables in the garden if I learned to do it without those bottles of chemicals with a skull and crossbones symbol on them – and that magazine would surely help. I found the ad for the magazine in Boys Life, a magazine that came with being in Cub Scouts.

A few years into reading Organic Gardening and Farming, I ran across an ad for a new magazine that would surely feed most of my other passions as a new teenager. Building things like boats, electric cars, solar hot water heaters, cob cabin construction, you name it. Once again, I cut out the form, filled in my name and address, and got my mom to write a check on my bank account for yet another venture into the mail-order unknown. This time for a subscription to a brand-new magazine called Mother Earth News. The year was 1970.

I was smitten with the first issue – and at least the next 60 or 70 issues – which I carried with me to college, to graduate school, and even to my first farm. My subscription lapsed shortly after I graduated with a Ph.D. in plant genetics and biochemistry, but I subscribed off and on through the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.

In 2007, almost exactly nine years ago, I accepted a position as editor of Grit. In time, I was promoted to editor-in-chief and then editorial director for Grit and several other brands here at Ogden Publications, including Mother Earth News. And with the retirement of Mother’s most recent editor-in-chief at the end of January, I now find myself at home again with Mother, serving as both editor-in-chief and editorial director. The fit feels natural, and it feels every bit like home to me as Grit does. And though Grit is now in Caleb’s capable hands, he has graciously offered me this space – for as long as you all find some benefit in it – to walk my pastures, contemplate in my corral, and talk to you about the fabulous life on the land.