Five years ago, Marla Camp stumbled upon a copy of Edible Brooklyn while in New York on business. She was immediately struck by the cover image of a ruddy gentleman in a white sleeveless undershirt, standing behind a roasted goat on a sidewalk.
“It was the gritty cover that captured my imagination,” says Camp, looking over the magazine.
Knowing Camp’s background in publishing — her career includes design and editing for the Ann Arbor Observer, Detroit News, and the Albany Times Union, not to mention running her own design-publishing firm, Impact Productions, since the 1990 — her friend urged her to consider launching an Edible magazine in Austin.
At the time, the Edible Communities Publications had franchises spanning all over the West and East coasts, but there was little to represent the Edible communities in the middle of the country. Camp let the idea percolate for a few days before setting her design and publishing assistant, Jenna Noel, on a mission to research just how to make it happen.
"Five years ago, [Austin] was emerging as a food destination in general, but at the same time we were seeing a tremendous potential for food production in Central Texas, from peach farming in Fredericksburg to pasture-raised ranching operations and dairies.”
“Jenna, being the resourceful person that she is, Googled the Edible publications and within minutes found that we could buy our very own title for the Austin area,” says Camp. “Two weeks later, we became the 24th in the family of Edibles.”
Camp’s fervent involvement in the community through social and political activism had already garnered her a strong network of food experts and mentors that helped guide her in the mission of what Edible Austin should be.
With help from the likes of Carol Ann Sayle of Boggy Creek Farm, local activist Jim Hightower, food writer and cookbook Author Terri-Thompson Anderson and Suzanne Santos of the Sustainable Food Center Farmers’ Markets, Camp quickly honed in on the right way to go about telling the story of Austin’s burgeoning sustainable food community.
“The timing was just right in Austin,” says Camp. “It’s such a vibrant community because of the University [of Texas], the capital, policy issues and the mix of cultures here. Five years ago, it was emerging as a food destination in general, but at the same time we were seeing a tremendous potential for food production in Central Texas, from peach farming in Fredericksburg to pasture-raised ranching operations and dairies.”
That and the steady growth of the local farmers’ markets and chef-driven restaurant concepts, Austin was fast becoming a melting pot where food culture was coming together from farmer to purveyor to chef, and inevitably to plate. The opportunities were endless for the fledgling magazine to point out the stories of the local food scene that was already thriving, as well as the stories of the growth in awareness about the importance of local food production throughout Central Texas.
In June of 2007, Camp and Noel launched the first issue of Edible Austin as Publisher and Assistant Publisher. The 52-page inaugural issue dawned the face of a happy little girl enjoying a refreshing helping of locally-made ice cream and in its first pages, Edible Austin was defined:
First let us define local. We’ve already been amazed at how many meanings that word can have. Within our 30-county area called Central Texas, local is the organic-vegetable-and-lemonade stand run by seven-year-old Alabel Chapin, her five-year-old brother Henry and their six-year-old friend Ford Martin. (We happened upon them in Austin’s Travis Heights neighborhood — see “1,000 Words,”) Local is the family ranch outside of Fredericksburg owned by Chuck and Teppi Schmidt, who raise pastured, grassfed beef using organic principles. Local is the soon-to-open Big Top Candy Shop on South Congress Avenue—independently owned by Brandon Hodge — featuring an old-fashioned soda fountain. It may appear counter-intuitive, but lingering over a rare treat of a real egg cream soda counts as the art of slow food. Local is Jesse Griffiths and Tamara Mayfield’s Dai Due supper club where lucky diners are served an all locally sourced menu, family style, at Rain Lily, a gem of an urban farm in East Austin. Tamara met Jesse delivering Rain Lily’s vegetables to Vespaio where he used to work as a chef. Local is exactly about making that kind of connection.
This month, Edible Austin celebrates its five-year anniversary with the release of its June 2012 issue. And just as the magazine’s cover line suggests, it has been celebrating a growing community of Central Texas food culture, season by season.
“I think we now have a more mature ‘foodie’ aesthetic here that is not just about how great things taste but how that food is raised and grown,” says Camp. “Our whole mission is to connect people to local sources, farmers, artisans, producers, the chefs and the local food non profits in our community. It’s not just to enjoy food, but to really transform the way we regard food in our life. That’s what sets us aport from other magazines.”
This month, Edible Austin celebrates its five-year anniversary with the release of its June 2012 issue.
To date, the magazine has doubled in size, boasting an even 100 pages in its most current release — not to mention a significant growth in circulation.
Camp originally drove throughout 30 counties of Central Texas distributing 20,000 copies of the magazine herself (with a few volunteers). Today, around 35,000 copies have been outsourced to Edible Austin family and friend, Jude Diallo and those numbers are projected to be at 40,000 by end of year.
That’s no easy task in the economic downturn we’ve faced, but Camp attributes the growth of the magazine to the strength of the connection the local community has made over the years.
“Through the magazine and other events we’ve created, we've forged a lot of relationships with famers and chefs and it’s really neat to see things on menus that are a reflection of relationships we’ve helped to create,” says Assistant Publisher Jenna Noel.
Jack Allen’s Kitchen is a perfect example of this local food community in motion. Inspired by his own son Bryce Gilmore’s culinary education in California, taking advantage of the bounty from local farmers, Jack Gilmore has looked to organizations like Edible Austin to help tell that story to all of Central Texas.
"Edible has always been about taking care of its community, and it gives a chance for farmers and chefs, who are doing it right, to have a voice,” says Gilmore. “The magazine elevates the knowledge of where our food is coming from, and educates the public on the food movement that is happening here in Austin. They are definitely batting for the good guys over there."
To Gilmore’s point, Edible Austin isn’t just a food-driven magazine that comes out five times a year — four seasonal issues as well as a fifth Edible Cooks issue in the fall — it’s also a committed partner to some of Austin’s local food non-profits including Urban Roots, an agriculture-driven non-profit for youth development and the Sustainable Food Center.
In 2007, the magazine put on its first “Eat. Drink. Local.” event week with a number of area chefs and purveyors offering special dishes at restaurants for Austinites to try. The first year raised $8,000 for Urban Roots. In 2010, the same event raised more than $40,000 which allowed the magazine to bring on a second non-profit benefactor, the SFC. In 2011, the event brought in $52,000.
“Edible Austin has truly helped put the local food scene on the map,” says Ronda Rutledge, executive director the SFC. “They bring the food system we are growing here in Central Texas to life! We are so appreciate of their support and excited to celebrate their anniversary!”
Austinites can also share in the celebration this Saturday at the SFC Farmers Market downtown, where the magazine will have its own booth to give away the fifth Anniversary issue as well as collector issues from previous years. They will also be offering a special giveaway at the closing of the market, including a collection of cookbooks for home chefs to enjoy.