For the first time in decades, The Old Farmer's Almanac is looking for a new editor
Janice Stillman took over as editor of The Old Farmer’s Almanac in 2000. At the time, she was the first woman to lead the publication, which launched in 1792 — and only the 13th person to ever hold that role.
“It was suggested to me that if I had any fear of triskaidekaphobia, fear of the number 13, they could bring someone on for a couple of weeks and I could start as number 14,” Stillman said. “But I said ‘No, I'll give that a pass.' And actually 13 has been very lucky for me.”
After 23 years, Stillman is stepping into retirement. And the Almanac is looking for its 14th editor.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac has expanded significantly since its beginnings more than two centuries ago. While its editing and planning operations are based in Dublin, New Hampshire, it now prints out of Pennsylvania and Indiana.
And the brand is now more than just an Almanac in print format. They also publish sun and moon calendars, flower and vegetable garden guides, home and living tips, and more. They have a website and e-books. Stillman said The Old Farmer's Almanac for Kids is really taking off, too.
“It’s really a phenomenal media machine in so many ways because the brand is so recognizable and so trusted,” Stillman said, adding that their audience seems eager to engage on lots of different formats.
Having lots of expertise in farming isn’t a requirement for the editor role. When Stillman started as editor, she said she didn’t know everything about farming, but she did have experience as a writer and editor for consumer publications that focused on lifestyle topics and natural health. She also was interested in gardening, folklore and home remedies — all things the Almanac covers.
Stillman said the most important quality for the next Almanac editor is curiosity.
“Because there’s so many areas of interest that we cover so many topics, that you have to trust your own judgment and you have to realize you have to step out of the box sometimes and go into an area that you might not have tread into,” she said.
For Stillman, being the Almanac’s first female editor has been a delight and an honor. The editorial staff, she said, embraces a mission “to be useful with some degree of humor.”
“And with that package it has been the most fun job I have ever had for the past 23 years,” Stillman said.
It’s also been nice to hear from so many people who appreciate the Almanac’s work, she said. Stillman and Almanac Publisher Sherin Pierce said the audience often takes time to send handwritten letters about how much they’ve enjoyed what they learned from the publication.
Pierce, who is the Almanac's first female publisher, said getting that type of response can be really gratifying. She thinks that's part of why people stay in the editor position for so long, as there’s an allure when people realize how closely bound readers feel to the publication. Pierce said it could also be that the Almanac is one of the oldest publications in the country, and people are eager to be part of keeping its legacy going.
In the 35 years that she’s worked at the Almanac, Pierce has only had two editors under her wing. Normally, she said, the publishers move on before editors do — so this shift with Stillman’s retirement is notable.
“I’m really proud when people decide to retire from the Almanac,” Pierce said. “It’s not something where people come in and out, and you read about thousands of layoffs in the tech industry. They get tremendous job satisfaction from the company and they hear from readers who have consumed the content. It’s a unique feeling, the throw away thing is not part of our culture.”