ripe. is a zine all about the ways food and culture intersect –– influenced by love and loss, family, identity, and passion. so much of how we express our humanity is linked to our relationship with food; how we eat it, how we share it and why we make it.
Who are you and what is your background?
ripe. is a zine with a team made up of individuals from a number of disciplines. We (Kelsey Adams and Claire Varty) founded the zine in 2018, and have since expanded the team to five members. We are a mix of journalists, arts writers, marketing managers, designers, photographers, and artists.
In what city?
We’re based in Toronto, Ontario.
Can you tell us about the journey in making this magazine
Our original goal was to create a food publication that explored food and humanity’s connection to it on a deeper level. Neither Claire nor I had self-published anything before so our first issue was definitely a learning experience. From finding an affordable printing house to finding contributors to building the magazine with our graphic design team, it was all new but so worth it for the sweet payoff of holding our baby after months of work. Because we self-publish we rely on the financial support of our readers or we pay out of pocket to produce the issues.
Our mission statement is simple enough, “At ripe. we strive to highlight the important stories about food and culture beyond those displayed in the mainstream. By supporting the stories of the underrepresented, we hope to create food writing that is engaging, inclusive and unique.” We look at food through unconventional lenses, like generational trauma, gentrification, identity, love and passion, and justice. This allows us to stretch the borders of food writing and create compelling content that reflects how we interact with each other, how we hold ourselves accountable and how we express emotion through food.
Print: Why choose print? What kind of paper you use and why? Typography?
Print was always the only way to go for us. There is something incredible about the tactile sensation of flipping through pages and holding your work in your hands. For me, as a writer, there is no better feeling than seeing my byline in print, and so it was imperative that ripe. be a print-first publication. We worked with our printing house to determine paper types and weights for issue one. We use a 100lb matte paper for our cover and an 80lb gloss paper for the inside, so each page feels substantial in your hands.
How’s the public response?
The public has been so supportive thus far! We sold out of our first print run on the day of our lunch and sold out of our second print run shortly after. We’re also stocked in a local neighborhood store, Likely General. People have really resonated with our content (a mix of long essays, reported features, photo series, illustrations, poetry,t, and recipes) because it’s accessible, a mix of serious and light, and rooted in care and love. Our first issue was an ode to the ways identity and family bonds are formed through food. We are small publications and have limited runs and we’re planning on keeping things small for issue two.
Can you give us a tour of your local media scene?
Toronto’s media scene is in an interesting predicament at the moment. As with most media across North America, there is a struggle to keep local magazines running but there is a lot of interest from young people in creating their own, new and smaller publications. The local magazines that are still flourishing have adapted to the new industry and have loyal followings looking for niche content. We also have many independent book and magazine sellers across the city, that sell independent publications and that helps to create an ecosystem of sorts.
Business: Indie mags get a lot of love, but it doesn’t always translate to sales or advertising. How’re the sales? Advertising-wise, is it a normal approach to selling an ad page or more a brand ad approach?
Sales for us haven’t been an issue because our print runs are so small. It’s kind of a scarcity-model, knowing that only 200 copies of a given issue exist, is a great motivator to get people buying or even pre-ordering copies. We don’t have any advertising. It was a conscious decision to avoid advertising to align with the ethics of our brand. Our next issue is about food justice and sovereignty and it didn’t sit well with us selling ads when a lot of the content is critiquing capitalistic consumption.
What is your online strategy?
We are in the midst of creating one now. Right now, we’re working on expanding our presence on Instagram and working on getting more frequent content on our blog.
What inspires you and motivates you to go to work every day? and print another issue?
We print ripe. on the side of all our other endeavors, so in that sense, it’s a passion project more than a full-time job. But because it is our baby, we are thinking about growing it more and more every day. We were definitely inspired by the reception to issue one to print another issue. People started asking us when they’d get to read issue two and that’s when we realized we had something special.
What were your biggest challenges as an entrepreneur?
Our biggest challenges, so far, have been in terms of the workload we had to manage when there were still only two of us. One main reason that we expanded the team is that there would be night’s when we’d be up until 5 am to get things ready and stay on deadline. It was simply too much work for two people to complete in the time period we were working with. Because of that, last minute stressors arose with content not being ready or needing to be redone way too close to the launch date for comfort. We’ve implemented new scheduling tools and expanded the team to make the production schedule more realistic and feasible.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start a magazine?
Do it. Make sure you have a dedicated team and you’re willing to learn as you grow. Find a niche that you feel hasn’t been addressed by the media in your community and fill it. All the difficult things like actually producing your magazine will come together if you believe in your vision wholeheartedly.
We’re in the middle of producing our second issue, to be released in late April. This issue is about food justice, Indigenous food sovereignty, urban farming, veganism, “wellness” culture, ethical consumption and more.