The last few weeks have been a blur of airports and open suitcases. Between going to conferences, giving talks, and presenting our new business plan -- a blueprint for sustainability -- I've hardly been home. It was downright blissful making dinner with my family last night.
But I'm not complaining about all the travel, because I get to meet so many of you. No matter how many times I'm told that our work touches people's lives, I am moved and grateful. In our business plan, we say that it's you -- our readers -- who make us unique. You are incredibly engaged in your lives and your communities, and you act on your passions.
Increasingly, the line between our subjects and our readers is blurring. Last week I met Tod Murphy, whose Farmer's Diner was featured in a story about 'slow money' in the Sept./Oct. issue. He told me this story: 'I was reading Utne at my father-in-law's house in Olympia, Washington. I was sitting upstairs in the loft, looking out over the forest. I had been reading the biographies of some of the people Utne had selected as most influential. There was Wendell Berry. I read and reread that piece and immediately went out to the bookstore to purchase a copy of The Unsettling of America. It was that purchase that led me to realize I was a born farmer, that I possess what is now called an agrarian sense of values. It was reading Wendell Berry, discovered through Utne, that developed the philosophy that lead me to create the Farmers Diner.'
And then there is Thomas Naylor, whose Vermont Manifesto we cover in this issue (pg. 66). Back in 1989, Naylor was a professor and corporate consultant living in Virginia. He read an article in the magazine that we reprinted from The Vermont Papers, a visionary book extolling the virtues of small-scale government from Vermont-based publisher Chelsea Green. Fast forward to the present when Naylor, now a Vermont resident, is leading a Vermont independence movement.
This year we will mark our 20th anniversary, and there are several ways we are planning to celebrate. One is by sharing stories of this cycle -- how we have inspired you and how you are living an inspired life that inspires us and others. Send submissions to Utne's 20th Anniversary, 1624 Harmon Place, Minneapolis, MN 55403.
We're also relaunching the neighborhood salons movement we pioneered in 1991. We are working with a number of partners to convene a national conversation about our hopes and dreams for our democracy beginning in March with salons in 1,000 living rooms, cafes, church basements, and union halls across the country. There will be a voter registration component to this initiative, as well as a concerted effort to reach out to all the networks we intersect. For more on how you can get involved, go to www.utne.com/salons.
On another front, your positive response to our redesign and the receptivity created by the current political climate has persuaded us to undertake a direct mail campaign for the first time in three years. You are always our best advocates, however, so here are a couple of ideas: Several readers, entirely independently from each other, have taken the initiative of sending gift subscriptions to their doctors, dentists, and other health care practitioners. It's a great way to expose a lot of people to new ways of thinking, to promote independent media, and, of course, to help us. If you aren't in a position to give subscriptions, then do a little guerrilla marketing -- one reader leaves her back issues in laundromats.
P.S. We hear from you that our ads are a valuable source of information; they also are an essential source of revenue to us. We try to be sensitive to your concerns, but we're far from infallible, so we really appreciate your feedback. In this issue, after much internal discussion, we are running an ad for an additive-free tobacco. I consider it a measure of my versatility that I both do yoga and occasionally smoke, and additive-free is certainly a better option. For some people, there is no such thing as a good smoking option, so we know that we may be making a controversial decision.