Susan Able was working in management at Deloitte Consulting and obsessing about food in her spare time when she heard something that intrigued her: The license to publish a Washington-area version of the James Beard Award-winning Edible Communities magazine was up for grabs. As it happened, Able was looking for a career move to “something mission-driven,” and she adored the brand for its commitment to local producers and their stories.
That’s how Edible DC, the local-food-centric magazine that first hit newsstands in 2012 — and disappeared the same year — came back. This month, it releases its second issue under Able’s ownership.
The Edens company, the developer behind Union Market, first bought the license to publish Edible DC a few years ago but let the magazine fizzle after producing two attractive, photo-heavy issues. Edible DC follows in the footsteps of Edible Chesapeake, which covered the food scenes of Washington, Baltimore and Richmond until it ceased publication in 2009.
“People tend to hang on to Edibles,” said Able, 54, who has lived in the District for more than five years. “I think that if you want to eat local, you’ve got to read local.”
After buying the license in March, Able scrambled to put out her first issue by peak summer season; in June, it debuted with a sun-dappled picnic spread on the cover.
Edible DC’s fall issue, out this month, features more of the “unique voice” Able envisions for the magazine as it depicts the passionate people working at every level of the local food chain, including artisanal incubators and national policymakers. (Full disclosure: The September issue includes two pieces written by me and another about Post Food editor Joe Yonan, whose recipe is pictured on the cover.)
I recently spoke with Able about the magazine. Edited excerpts follow:
Tell us about your background. What were you doing before Edible?
I’m originally from southern Indiana. Even though I’ve lived my big-city life as an adult, I grew up being a 4-H girl, showing my dog and competitively baking since I was 9 or 10. My first job was at a farm stand, so it’s kind of in my blood.
When I saw this opportunity, I just thought it was the perfect blend of a lot of my interests and business skills. I had been a big fan of Edible, and I’d pick them up while traveling a lot for work. I found out the D.C. license for the magazine was available and contacted them.
I’d always been in marketing and communication, so I understood writing and editing; I’d just never published a magazine.
What was the hardest part about reviving and quickly putting out this magazine?
The hardest thing was to just start and get a magazine out in two months.
I bought the license in early March and decided to get my first magazine out in June for the farmers markets, because I knew I wanted to distribute heavily through the markets.
That first issue, I pretty much did it myself with some wonderful contributors. Now I can say I know how to put a magazine together. The response to our first issue was overwhelming and positive. I was anticipating that people would be happy, but I didn’t anticipate how much.
What is it like working with the national Edible brand?
The great thing about Edible is you get so much support from the community. So even though I may not know all the answers, there are always people there ready to help me figure things out.
Our revenues are based on ads and, to some degree, events. People share very openly their successes and the things that have worked for them, whether in Marin County, California, or Michigan. We have a national list of e-mail addresses just for sharing that knowledge.
Plus, the word got out really quickly that Edible was back in Washington. Because people are from different places, they carry their love of Edible here. I loved the idea that I was becoming part of a recognized and well-loved brand.
What has surprised you about the Washington food scene?
I thought I was really in the know. I eat out a lot. I’m also a farm day-tripper. I have been a CSA and market person for many years, eaten local as much as I can. But I hadn’t even scratched the surface of what is going on in our local food movement. We are now considered a food town, and I think that’s a mantle that Washington never really wore. I think now we’re going shoulder-to-shoulder with a lot of other cities in terms of not just our restaurant scene but also our farm and our artisanal food scenes.
You live in Bloomingdale. What do you think of the food scene in your neighborhood?
My neighborhood is an example of what’s great about D.C. right now. The Red Hen restaurant is a few blocks from me. There are a lot of food options and choices, and a Sunday farmers market.
The problem with my new work life is that I’m out in the country a lot on weekends. But if I am in Bloomingdale, I can walk a few blocks and buy tons of fresh produce and bread right in my neighborhood. I can eat locally any night of the week. I think that’s emblematic of what’s happening here.
Pipkin, a freelance journalist in Alexandria, blogs at ThinkAboutEat.com.
Edible DC is scheduled to appear quarterly and publish an annual drinks issue and is available free at select distribution points, including FreshFarm Markets. Find the distributors, or subscribe by mail ($32 a year or $52 for two years), at www.edibledc.com.