Food Matters – Concrete Garden

cropped cropped ConcreteGardenCover WebSome people say print is dead, but the second edition of a magazine featuring trends in urban agriculture is now making the rounds in Victoria and beyond. Concrete Garden started off as a student project of a University of Victoria magazine writing class, but has now become much more.

Students in the magazine class were given the task of creating a magazine. One particular group did such a great job of their proposal for an magazine featuring urban agriculture the proposal was forwarded to the UVic Sustainability Project. That got them a grant to make sure it could become a real magazine. This week I spoke with Quinn MacDonald, one of the founders of the magazine who is now senior editor, and Kimberley Veness, the editor for this issue and for Spring 2014. I asked them what they’ve learned about the publishing business. Quinn says it is much, much harder than it looks, editing and checking and re-checking, while Kimberley adds that you should always give yourself a couple of months before the publishing deadline to get all those last-minute changes made. 

Kimberley and QuinnKimberley Veness (l) and Quinn MacDonald

So why a print magazine in this digital age? Quinn says the visual aesthetics of the magazine are very important to them, and those qualities can be much more appreciated in a hard copy publication. It can be put on a shelf or a coffee table, referred to over and over again. “There is going to be an online presence as well, but the idea of being able to hold it in your hands, it’s good-looking and giving you a good choice.”

Kimberley adds: “I really like the idea of cafe culture, where someone can pick this up and read it, then put it down for someone else to pick up, whereas on the internet, people may just be browsing a story, skimming over it without really reading it all the way through.”

In the Fall 2013 issue of Concrete Garden, you’ll find thirteen different features of varying length, which is quite high for a magazine with a relatively small page count. They range far afield with a story about Urban Agriculture groups trying to restore some ‘green’ to the city of Detroit, to here at home with a comparison of Vancouver and Victoria’s green economies. Add in a couple of profiles a restaurants using local ingredients, book reviews and even poetry and you have a nicely-rounded publication that can hold the interest of all age groups, even though they are aiming for a younger demographic, which of course includes university students, but they want to go beyond that audience. Kimberley says that makes her job as editor pleasantly difficult: “There’s never a lack of stories which is really great, if anything I just get too excited and want to cover everything, and sometimes Quinn lets me know that not all of the stories are taking place in the cities, and we want to remain very urban focussed.”

There’s no doubt that urban agriculture is having much more attention paid to it in certain areas right here on Vancouver Island, so to make their publication stand out from the other media covering the same trend they are going to advocate for local food not as a trend, but as something that should be the norm. Kimberley: I almost want to say that local food is become like hipster material, just jumping on the trend and saying, ‘oh, today I’m going to eat local, or this week I’m going to vegetarian’, and we want to make it lasting, and we want to make it happen. So I think the stories in Concrete Garden are important and we try to make them dynamic and visually exciting.

You can find the hard copy of the magazine in the following places: The Victoria Public Market, Bubby Rose’s Bakery, various shops in the Cook St. Village, Parkside Victoria Resort and Spa and the Cornerstone Cafe in Fernwood. There will also be some distribution in Langford, Sidney and Salt Spring Island. Quantities are limited, so act soon!

The online version will likely appear around mid-October. To listen to the full version of the interview I did with Kimberley and Quinn, click on this link to hear the mp3. (It will take a few seconds to buffer in a new window before it starts playing.) To listen to my chat with Khalil Aktar on All Points West(CBC Victoria), click here.

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2 Responses to Food Matters – Concrete Garden

  1. Michael Mascall says:

    I really enjoy your approach, comments and suggestions…. you mentioned on the last CBC program about a Thai restaurant in Portland… I am going to Portland (with a pastry chef I might add) and would love to try it out.. Could you please tell me the name of the restaurant…

    yours in sharing gastronomy
    Michael Mascall

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