Wilder Quarterly is one of our favourite new magazines that tells stories of growing, cultivation and culture in a truly inspiring manner. There’s a an innate physicality and beautifully tangible element to the magazine itself that transcends the people and places they publish from. Founded by New Yorker Celestine Maddy, Wilder Quarterly is about to launch its summer issue and over the course of three tomes has already delved into Mike Mills’ LA back yard whilst exploring the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in the Arctic Circle and meeting chef Aaron Woo from Portland’s Natural Selection restaurant. There’s a lot more to come too.
Terence Teh: Can you please introduce yourself and the story behind Wilder Quarterly?
Celestine Maddy: I’m the founder of Wilder Quarterly. I live in Brooklyn with my husband who is a restaurateur and my dog who is lazy.
I wouldn’t say I was an outdoor person until three-years-ago, when I moved into my then-boyfriend’s rambling brownstone in Brooklyn. He and the two guys he was living with had an amazing backyard that they had been neglecting for years.
When you have that much space in the city, you can’t turn your back on it. Or, at least, I couldn’t. I was determined to get some grass growing. To turn some of the piles of dirt into a bed of flowers or something anyways. When I went in search of media - magazines, books, websites - I couldn’t find anything that spoke to my circumstances (city growing) and interests. I wanted to read other things that what the plant of the year was or how to grow a rose plant. I wanted to be entertained by stories from across the growing world and I wanted to be inspired by beautiful imagery, and learn things that applied to a contemporary growers experience. I didn’t want a precious version of growing either. I wanted to get dirty.
TT: What were your major challenges on setting up?
Celestine Maddy: The greatest actual challenge is getting everything done. Editorially, Wilder is made with four people who are all wildly creative, which means there are some huge ideas that come to the table. I wish we could do them all. I wish we were all Kali with many many hands. In reality, we’re just human beings with computers.
TT: How was the Food Book Art Fair?
Celestine Maddy: I had such a great time at the Food Book Art Fair. I think Elizabeth really pulled off something great by gathering all these smart and passionate people together to talk food media. I also just love any chance I can get to get together with other small publications. It’s so much fun to talk shop, get inspired, talk smack.
TT: Being an independent print publication, do you feel that the craft of creating a tangible object is hugely satisfying? It’s also a statement of exactly what the magazine and its content is about, right?
Celestine Maddy: Right. Making a printed product was key for Wilder. Growers - farmers, fire escape gardeners, hydroponic-junkies - are all tactical. It can be bruising or just messy work which comes with smells, sounds, lots of visual stimuli. A printed product engenders all of that.
Otherwise, as you well know, it is the most fantastic feeling in the world - creating something where there was nothing.
TT: How can we help - large or small - in supporting self sustaining communities?
Celestine Maddy: I’d just be happy if everyone realized you can grow almost anything whether you are in your apartment in lower Manhattan or have a backyard in Austin. Start your own self sustaining apartment.
TT: How do you feel that NYC has changed in the past decade with regards to food & cultivating culture?
Celestine Maddy: It’s not just New York, but the U.S. as a whole that has seen change in the consideration of food and cultivating. Food’s place in culture has completely shifted from these objects for sustenance to an extremely hot (even polarizing) topic with books, TV shows, blogs, pop-up fooderies, artisanal products, and an entire lexicon to go with it. We are (lucky enough to be) pre-occupied with the how and whys of food and that’s not a bad thing.
Growing - how you get that food from farms, fisheries, livestock - is under a new lens due to this shift. Wilder is about exploring all those wonderful topics that growing touches. Not just food, but design, architecture, travel, history.
TT: What would you say is the biggest aspect of farming in US that needs to be changed?
Celestine Maddy: I think my perspective isn’t going to be the best. I’m not a farmer who is on the ground with a real world idea of what needs to change. I have the knowledge gained from working on Wilder and if you want my two cents - it’s governmental policy. Isn’t that boring?
TT: I love the global outlook of Wilder Quarterly, the seed bank story in the new issue is amazing, how important is that outlook to you?
Celestine Maddy: Thanks! Looking at growing through a national lens does a disservice to it’s essential and global nature. Wilder covers the growing world. So far, Wilder has been to Mexico, Morocco, Norway, Barcelona… In the fall issue, we’re going to Kyoto.
TT: Can you tell us about the Fresh Air Fund and being a philanthropic company?
Celestine Maddy: The Fresh Air Fund sends kids living in urban environments to camp. Classic camp with tents and bunks, archery, swimming holes, field days… It’s an amazing organization. Everything is connected. We’re just a connection point. People who like the outdoors can help people go outdoors. We’re just a stop in between on that journey.
I don’t think of us as a philanthropic company. We’re just writing a check. When we have the bandwidth to really get involved on the ground by hosting specific programs and raising educational funds, then we’ll be a philanthropic company. I’d love to get there in the next year. Cross your fingers.
by Terence Teh