This October marks Agriculture Magazine’s 25th year. It is the longest running and most widely read magazine of its kind in the country.
The magazine’s first issue was launched in October 1998 and was helmed by veteran agrijournalist Zacarias “Zac” Sarian until his retirement in 2020, months before his passing. Sarian championed small farmers and made farming and gardening accessible and engaging to the regular Filipino. His vast knowledge in different aspects for farming and gardening, coupled with his enthusiasm for sharing what he knew, enabled many people to discover an interest in agriculture and even fulfill their dreams of owning their own farm business.
I entered Agriculture Magazine around 2017 as its web editor, tasked to develop its website, Agriculture.com.ph, which I managed to grow to, at its peak, 400k views in May 2020. I later took over Agriculture Online, the magazine’s Facebook Page, which had about 3000 likes when started, and which now has an average of 84,000 likes and 98,000 followers.
Sir Zac was always a comfortable presence in the office. You could see him walking the halls to get to his office in the mezzanine. One time, I asked if it was haunted, and he said no.
After Sir Zac retired, I was asked to take over as Manila Bulletin’s Agriculture section editor, and later, Agriculture Magazine editor-in-chief. By this time, I had read almost every issue with a soft copy and understood what he was trying to achieve.
It is very, very, very hard to follow in the footsteps of someone who has made a significant impact in their industry, and there will only be one Zac Sarian.
Thus, we do our best to build on his legacy by coming out with a publication that has its place in today’s hyperconnected world, and I’m glad to say that we are succeeding. As of October 3, 2022, Agriculture.com.ph is ranked one of the Top 10 websites in the Philippines in the Science and Education category, with an almost 50/50 split between male and female readers, 60% of which are between ages 18 to 34.
The magazine, meanwhile, continues to enjoy its legacy readers that span all ages, from folks who began collecting the magazine since its first issue to their children, now adults, who learned to love agriculture from growing up reading its pages.
Agriculture Magazine continues in its mission to inspire and inform Filipinos about the importance of agriculture and how, with proper planning and strategic sales and marketing, it can be a viable business.
We believe that for the agriculture industry to thrive, it should be thought of as business, and not charity. Thus, job creation and retention is important, and this can only be achieved if there is concrete evidence that one can make a decent living in this industry. We want to debunk harmful myths about agriculture, including that farmers should be paid poorly because “they get to do what they love.” We believe that toxic thinking like this is one of the many factors that has led to the country’s current food crisis.
We continue to champion small farmers, particularly young farmers and those who run successful farm businesses. We continue to interview experts and publish farming tips and have added farm business advice (also from experts) to give readers ideas on how to gain customers. We don’t sugarcoat the ups and downs of agriculture, because as any farmer will tell you, it’s hard, but it can be worth it.
An interesting offshoot for me is that because of Agriculture.com.ph’s success, I’ve had to mentor content producers, one of whom has already won two agrijournalism awards. I’ve also been asked to lecture on how to write engaging agriculture articles, among others. I try to say yes because it’s an honor to help set a standard for agrijournalism nationwide.
The last time I spoke to Sir Zac, he watched me interview then Department of Agriculture Secretary William Dar for Manila Bulletin’s web program Hot Seat. Afterwards, he gave me a container of pomelo from his farm and said he was leaving the magazine to me. I, of course, protested, but he waved them away.
It’s sad that Sir Zac isn’t around to see Agriculture Magazine celebrate its 25th year, but I’d like to think that he’d have approved of how it’s evolved and where it’s headed. We thank everyone who has journeyed with us all this way, and look forward to more years of inspiring, informing, and inviting Filipinos to take an active part in the country’s agriculture industry.
I personally believe that agriculture is the Filipino dream, and we’re looking forward to continuing to help our readers make that happen.