Omaha professional doubles as editor to promote sustainable food
By Miranda Milovich
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Amy Brown isn’t a typical magazine editor. She studied finance and economics, not journalism, and her full-time job is at an Omaha bank. But her passion is for her magazine, Edible Omaha.
Brown grew up in Iowa and graduated from Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa. She moved to Omaha, working at First National Bank. A few years ago Brown started learning more about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and processed foods.
“I felt like I had been lied to. I didn’t want to feed my family that (GMOs) anymore, and I figured if I wanted to do something about it, then there were probably plenty of other people out there who felt the same way,” Brown said.
She and her friend Lucy Wilson, who also has a background in finance, set out to make a difference. Brown had heard about Edible Communities, a network of more than 80 local food publications across North America. Although she and her business partner Wilson had no journalism background, they started Edible Omaha.
The first issue hit the stands in the spring of 2011 and was the product of many late nights and long weekends. Since Brown didn’t have any formal editing experience, the entire process was a learning experience for her. She said the most difficult part about editing the magazine has been building her own confidence as an editor, something she has been able to do with the help of others.
Some of Brown’s duties at the magazine include sorting through story pitches. The pitches align with the food seasons, further encouraging people to use local food. She coordinates freelance writers and photographers, gives feedback to her writers after they submit a first draft and does the final edit before everything is bundled and shipped to the layout designer. She also edits the online version of the magazine.
Although Brown’s editing duties are done once the content is shipped, her job is far from over. Once the magazine is printed, she and what she calls her “distribution angels” deliver the magazines to seven counties across Iowa and Nebraska. The magazine is funded completely by advertisers and is delivered free to local businesses like grocery stores and farmers’ markets.
In Edible Omaha, you won’t see an ad for a free tire rotation with the purchase of an oil change or an ad for McDonald’s breakfast. The magazine is funded by advertisers who reflect the overall message of Edible Omaha.
Brown said it is important to be able to provide the magazine free to the public so the price of the magazine is not a barrier to the mission of helping readers seek healthier and more environmentally friendly food options.
The magazine is also distributed to No More Empty Pots, an Omaha-based organization that promotes regional and sustainable food security. Brown said she and Wilson are working to distribute copies to parents of children in Head Start programs. They also have partnered with the public library to provide copies to the people there.
“Food is the one thing we all require,” Brown said. “To me, it levels the playing field and is something we all should care about. We have an overabundance of calories, but we are creating a malnourished society. In a lot of countries you have starving people who don’t have enough food. We have too much, but it’s not nourishing our bodies.”
Brown said some characteristics that are important for an editor are flexibility, adaptability, attention to detail, organizational skills and the ability to prioritize. She also said it is important to recognize and reward the people who work on the magazine. She said people who feel appreciated tend to be more positive and willing to put forth their best effort. “We invite our contributors to represent Edible at local dinners, food tastings and community events.”
Edible Omaha pays its freelance writers and photographers, but Brown and Wilson do not receive compensation. “I know we are furthering our goal of building a sustainable food community, and that is rewarding,” Brown said. “Additionally, feedback from readers has been amazing.”