By Suzannah Schneider, Communications Manager and Certification Coordinator
There's a very strong chance that you have at least one book from Chelsea Green Publishing on your shelf. There's an even better chance that that book or those books are dog-eared, underlined, collaged with sticky notes, and all but falling apart after years of reference and careful study.
The 100% employee-owned company has long produced essential books on ecological agriculture, publishing for both the practice and the politics of sustainability since its founding in 1984. From Eliot Coleman's classics to Leah Penniman's guide from her Certified Naturally Grown farm, Chelsea Green has made a big impact on CNG farmers and the public alike.
This publisher's books are deeply practical, and always put forth with the goal of cultural change.
We are truly thrilled to welcome this pioneering company to the CNG Business Ally community.
To learn more about the rich history and mission of this Vermont-based organization, you won't want to miss our interview with Marketing Director Sean Maher!
Sean Maher, Marketing Director (SM): Margo Baldwin started Chelsea Green with her husband, Ian, in 1984. At first, it was based out of their home in Chelsea, VT—a town with two greens, hence the name Chelsea Green.
In the first year of operation, Margo and Ian published the first trade edition of an eco-fable called The Man Who Planted Trees, by Jean Giono. The book reflected, as Margo put it, “the initial vision and impetus” behind the company. Still in print, it is one of Chelsea Green’s most successful books to date. Another early success story was Eliot Coleman’s New Organic Grower, a seminal manual of innovative gardening methods that helped inspire the organic movement in the U.S. Coleman is still one of our best-selling authors. In 1994, Chelsea Green published The Straw Bale House, a renewable building technique that was energy efficient, durable, affordable, beautiful, and totally unheard of at that time.
Chelsea Green is a founding member of the Green Press Initiative, committed to using recycled papers and non-toxic inks since 1985. We print in North America only and not overseas, except when we are printing for our UK operations.
SM: The company’s unique vision and purpose states, “Chelsea Green sees publishing as a tool for effecting cultural change. Our purpose is to reverse the destruction of the natural world by challenging the beliefs and practices that are enabling this destruction and by providing inspirational and practical alternatives that promote sustainable living.”
To achieve this, we publish for both the practice and the politics of sustainability. In other words, we publish informational texts about hard-won organic stewardship of all kinds while also publishing motivating treatises and guidebooks on citizenship, political resistance, and activism. We aim to empower our readers to reduce their personal ecological impact while participating in the restoration of both healthy human communities and thriving natural systems.
We are committed to remaining fully independent because we believe in the critical role independent publishing can play in creating real social change. A 100% employee owned company, we aim to foster a culture of ownership, in our workplace and individually as citizens of the world. We know our books are needed, that the ideas behind the books are important and necessary, so we invest a great deal in sharing them with communities of people who will carry the lessons forward and farther.
CNG: How did you make the decision to support CNG as a Business Ally?
SM: Our relationship with CNG began with Leah Penniman’s book, Farming While Black. The themes of food justice, farmer activism, and locally supported food systems run deep at both Chelsea Green and CNG.
When we find an organization committed to legitimizing natural growing practices with high standards and high ideals, we get excited and want to learn more. Chelsea Green understands the power of grassroots initiatives that change our food systems for the better, one grower at a time.
CNG: How does Certified Naturally Grown support Chelsea Green Publishing's customers?
SM: Chelsea Green has very loyal, impassioned audiences who take their particular agricultural and environmental missions seriously. That’s the benefit of this kind of publishing. In these dedicated, change-maker circles, cutting edge ideas spread quickly because people are always pushing the boundaries and thinking about what comes next. Those same reader-activist-farmer-steward-paradigm-shifters understand the importance of certification as a means to legitimacy in the consumer marketplace.
To quote Margo, Chelsea Green’s President and Publisher, “In terms of our place in the agricultural movement, we want to maintain that we’re at the leading edge of new ideas and new experiments and new ways of thinking about agriculture.”
CNG: What are some exciting developments at Chelsea Green Publishing our CNG community can look forward to in the future?
SM: A batch of exciting, freshly-released titles! Including Dancing with Bees by Brigit Strawbridge Howard, whose dedication to “the plight of pollinators,” including little known species that could have a big impact on our landscapes, is a total joy to read. And Farming on the Wild Side by Nancy and John Hayden, who have spent the last quarter century transforming their land in Northern Vermont into an agroecological, regenerative, biodiverse fruit farm, nursery, and pollinator sanctuary.
SM: When I asked this question to some of our staff, Senior Editor Fern Bradley gave a wonderful response: "How powerful is the wand?Powerful enough to turn back the clock to the pre-Roundup/GMO crops era and outlaw the development of herbicide-resistant crops? That would be one way to help. Another would be to give every farmer a no-cost mentor who would help them transition away from dependence on synthetic chemicals, as fast as possible."
Channeling our author Gabe Brown (Dirt to Soil), he might say: Wave the wand to instantly cover all exposed agricultural soils in America with growing crops, and keep them covered from then on, because building soil health is the best way to improve farm systems.
CNG: Is there anything else CNG farmers and beekeepers should know?
SM: The simple answer: that Chelsea Green has always been and will continue to be a fiercely independent publisher of the ideas, practices, and belief systems that support the resilience and relevance of sustainable agriculture of all kinds. And that we are not afraid of being the first to step into uncharted territory. Trailblazing is in our blood, and we’ve had a lot of success with it over the years.