ACRES - One year and growing strong
By GARY BROCK
It began as an idea more than two years ago as a special publication serving the needs of Ohio farmers, agriculture companies and those working with farmers and agriculture businesses.
Civitas Media Group Publisher Pam Stricker, publisher of the Wilmington News-Journal, had believed for many years that a monthly newspaper or magazine publication was badly needed for Ohio’s farmers. Newspapers in the then-Ohio Community Media Southwest Group were already publishing successful a quarterly lifestyle-living magazine, “SALT”, a travel magazine, “TRIP”, and many other so-called “niche” publications aimed at specific segments of the community.
That is how the idea of ACRES of Southwest Ohio started, to serve Ohio farmers, and last month ACRES of Southwest Ohio published its 12th monthly successful issue. This March edition begins our second year.
In a December, 2011 meeting of publishers and Advertising Directors at Wilmington, Washington Court House, Hillsboro, West Union and Georgetown, the decision was made to launch “ACRES” in March of 2012.
What then grew from a direct mail that first 2012 issue of about 10,000 copies has grown to what is now — a year later — more than 55,000 issues distributed across more than 44 Ohio counties, along with counties in Indiana and Kentucky.
Each month, ACRES has focused on issues important to Ohio farmers, plus lots of fun features about Ohio farmers, suppliers, upcoming events and conferences and the latest on the “high tech” advances in agriculture.
So far, reaction to ACRES has been very positive.
“I think this is a great product,” said Wilma Coulter, Vice-President of Merchant’s National Bank and Chairman of Bank Marketing. “It reaches a target audience that we at Merchant’s National Bank value and find very important to us.”
When asked about ACRES, she said it is very informative. “This is agriculture country,” she pointed out, adding that ACRES reaches people in all the markets they serve, including Clark, Madison, Fayette, Highland, Brown and Clermont Counties. “We are very pleased with it.”
“We received a copy of the new Acres and loved it. My husband was very upset when he found out RFD (a former rural farm publication) was no longer printing, but you sure surprised us. Keep up the good stories,” said David Gompf, of Mt. Gilead.
After ACRES of Southwest Ohio started a year ago — in 11 Ohio and one Kentucky County with about 10,000 households — other newspapers in the then-Ohio Community Media family joined in the successful monthly product. There are now a total of five unique “ACRES” monthly farming publications, with a total distribution of just over 55,000 mailed directly of farmers and agriculture providers.
There is ACRES of Northwestern Ohio, in 10 Ohio counties serving 12,006 households. There is ACRES of North Central Ohio, in nine Ohio counties serving 12,215 households. These were followed by ACRES of Western Ohio, covering four Ohio and three Indiana counties, serving 10,612 households. The newest addition, started last summer, is ACRES of West Central Ohio, covering six Ohio counties serving 10,603 households.
ACRES also launched a website featuring the articles and editions from all five ACRES publications. Readers can go to www.acresmidwest.com to read all the articles and features from all the editions.
Jay Harmount, District Sales manager for Brodbeck Seeds, said: “What I really like about ACRES is the local touch. It is different than the other Ohio agriculture publications that have a statewide focus.”
For his business that advertises in ACRES, he said he likes that it gets his business in front of the audience that he targets. “It gives us the opportunity to get our name out there so people can get to know us.”
He said there is “definitely a need for what you are doing, focusing on the local communities.”
Fayette County farmer Jeff Fetters says that what he likes about ACRES is the fact that ACRES is all agriculture-oriented. “That grabs my attention. I also enjoy looking at all the ads,” he said.
One of the factors that has entered into the success of the ACRES publications has been the growth and “good times” for agriculture here in Ohio over the last few years. Farming is booming in Ohio. Fetters agrees. “These are the best times in all my years of farming,” he pointed out.
Fetters has been farming since he graduated from Ohio State in 1975, growing corn and soybeans on his 800-acre farm.
His advice for ACRES in the future? “Just keep focusing on the local farm features,” he said.
Civitas Media Group Publisher Frank Beeson, who is in charge of two of the ACRES products in the West and West Central areas, said that reaction to ACRES has been very positive. “This past summer, while working at The Daily Advocate booth at the Darke County fair, many visitors came up to our booth to express personally express their appreciation for such an outstanding agricultural publication. People would say: ‘We are Ohio’s largest economic resource and it’s great to see a publication that specifically addresses the ag industry.’”
Here is what one agriculture educator said not long after ACRES started last year: “Mr. Brock: I want to express my thanks for the ACRES newspaper I received today. As a retired Agricultural Educator and part-time farmer, it is good to see articles about people and businesses located in the immediate area. Also, I notice a number of advertisers that are familiar, and hope they continue their support. …..Keep up the good work, I will be subscribing to get ACRES on a regular basis….” said Dennis Swartz, retired Vo-Ag teacher and Vocational Administrator, in Marion County.
What are the plans for the second year of “ACRES of Southwest Ohio?” There will be a number of features to help local farmers deal with their finances, ways to save money on equipment, and trends in yield and productivity over the next 10 years and beyond.
In other words, we will continue to focus on what farmers need to know and to grow their business.
(Gary Brock, publisher-editor of the Record-Herald in Washington CH, is Editor of ACRES of Southwest Ohio and Editor-in-Chief of all five ACRES publications statewide.)