Dear reader, the future of The WFJ is in your hands
It includes a word starting with ‘pay’ and ending in ‘wall’
When I started publishing The Wallfish Journal eight and a half months ago, I set about writing the kind of stories I’d usually write for Riverford, Time Out London, Ferment, or Great British Chefs, but within a hyperlocal context. Specifically, Frome and its surrounds. Specifically, for free.
Why? Because I wanted Frome friends, myself, and the wider community to feel like we could make more informed decisions about what we eat and drink. This information did not exist publicly. I wanted to present it, and I wanted to present it as accessibly as possible.
There will be other perspectives, but the plan seems to have generally worked. The catch, though, is that it wants to continue working. As The WFJ reserves start to dry up, the unfortunate question becomes something like: How can The WFJ sustain itself? Would people actually pay for this?
It transpires that they would. Thank you to those who have already donated and become paid subscribers to The WFJ – even if up until now there was no tangible benefit of doing so.You have spoken through your bank accounts, indicating to me that readers will in fact put their money where their mouth is.
Let me be frank – it takes the best part of two days to research, write, and at times illustrate a Wallfish Journal article. As they follow a very similar formula to what I write professionally, up til now I estimate I’ve given away around £12,000 worth of content to Frome readers for free.
So far, that’s included detailing why a Rye bakery sourdough loaf costs £4.50; illustrating, with the help of local photographer Holly Wulff Petersen, the nutritional and social good Vallis Veg is providing; breaking the story of the upcoming reintroduction of an almost extinct Somerset cattle breed; collaborating with Frome food writer and Be Friendly Trust gardener Claire Jefferies to explore the role of local pollinators; and telling the story behind Frome’s favourite sandwich. Not to mention 35 other articles not dissimilar in their approach.
And so, for these kinds of stories to continue, The WFJ is having the builders in to put up the ol’ paywall. From now, access to about 76% of what The WFJ publishes will require from you £3.50 per month (about 90p per article), or £35 for a yearly subscription (about 70p per article).
What exactly does that mean?
Well, as a paid-up sub, from now you will get:
At least four pieces of content per month, and once per week as is the usual schedule. These will be the kinds of original, sometimes investigative stories WFJ readers are familiar with since day one. But there will also be subscriber-exclusive recipes, advances on food event tickets, essays and opinion, unabridged interviews, ‘meet your maker’ events, supper clubs, and farm visits.
You’ll also have access to all The WFJ’s previous posts (most of which are now paywalled).
Continue as an unpaid sub, and you will get:
Occasional posts. Again, similar to what the WFJ usually publishes, only once a month or so.
If you haven’t already, upgrade now to make sure you get all the Perks Of Being A Wallfish Journal Subscriber
Depending on whether you’re paid up or not, in the coming weeks you can look forward to stories such as:
Growing for the future: How the recent mild weather is affecting seasonality and what local farmers can produce
Why a locally-reared Christmas turkey costs £90 this Christmas
Taste testing Frome’s mince pies: From The Old Bakehouse to Parsons, who’s selling the best this year?
Inside 42 Acres’ transition: Why and how the luxury retreat is taking steps to be more inclusive of the Frome community
More than a method of dispense: An essay on cask beer, like what Just Ales serves, versus keg beer, like what Palmer Street Bottle serves
This here concludes my pitch, so I’ll now take a few questions. Yes, you there, with the lovely face.
£3.50 a month? I dig what you’re doing but that’s waaaaayy too much.
Not to worry. If the sub fee is more than you can afford to pay, email me and we’ll sort something out.
Can I buy a sub for someone else?
Yes, gift subscriptions exist. And with the C word round the corner, it’s timely that you should ask about virtual stocking fillers. Follow this link to see how it works.
Does this mean the quality of the free stuff will be worse than before?
If anything, it means it’ll be better than before. Though that is reliant on paid subscriptions – more paid subscribers means more bankroll, which means more time I can dedicate to all content, whether it’s behind a paywall or not.
Why bother with all this, anyway?
It’s good you asked – I was just about to leave you with an excerpt from one of Aine Morris’ spoken word issues as part of her newsletter Reap and Sow, which makes well the case for food storytellers within their respective communities. Have at it:
We all have to eat, and we can either be passive consumers of an industrial food system that’s doing significant damage and harm. Or food can be the tool through which we change everything.
Change food and you change everything. If you have communities of people who are active food citizens, if you have communities more actively engaged in feeding themselves, then it’s impossible for them to be passive consumers. And they engage in dialogue with people who maybe don’t think the same way as them.
Because right now the story is wrong […] The power of food people, from farmers through to chefs, through to the food media and the bloggers and the social people – you guys are the storytellers, right? You’ve got this incredible responsibility to tell inspiring stories of change. To focus on the good, to act as those thought leaders. Restaurants or food businesses or producers trying to grow heritage grains or reconnect people or communities – we cannot depend on the Food Programme or Countryfile to find all those people regularly. There has to be more work that goes on in communities and on an individual level, really finding and profiling and calling out those fantastic projects that are examples of how the food system can be this powerful force for good.
If you became a paid subscriber before this email went out, and would like to extend your paid subscription at no extra cost, just shout.