Although I’m almost stubbornly refusing to do any Mofo posts on the weekends, with just a few days remaining there was no way I could miss out on the opportunity to post an interview I did with Ryan from T.O.F.U Magazine. He was kind enough to thoroughly answer all my questions and how could I not spread the word about this fantastic vegan magazine! As the editor for for T.O.F.U. Magazine, Ryan shares his thoughts on veganism and explains how the magazine got its roots.
T.O.F.U. magazine is an independent publication that aims to showcase vegans from around the world. What that really boils down to is that the magazine is run by me from wherever I call home at any given moment, it’s filled with articles written by people who are kind enough to donate their time and offer their words on anything and everything that relates to being vegan, and it tries not to push one certain view of what it means to be vegan. In fact, the last issue or two has really been about pushing back on vegans themselves to try and acknowledge that the movement itself has plenty of issues to deal with.
How long have you been vegan? What made you decide to adopt a vegan lifestyle?
I’m not entirely sure when I “became” vegan. It was a gradual process with a lot of stuff in-between being a carnivore, a vegetarian, and a vegan. I can say that I finally made the decision to try and follow a vegan lifestyle around five to six years ago. Whether or not I’ve been vegan since that point depends on how much lenience one can have for accidentally eating something or traveling and not knowing the language, but hoping that you got it right. Of course, those sorts of questions are really more of a personal thing, and I figure if you can sleep at night, you’re doing an all right job.
I adopted the vegan lifestyle because I finally accepted that I couldn’t kill something for my benefit. I grew up in a small town on the East coast of Canada. My extended family hunts, and in some ways I admire that since it keeps them from relying on the grocery store imports from so far away. Sure, they still shop for things, but they also live in a way that is closer to the land than I am as a vegan in a city. That being said, I know I can’t take a life, and I refuse to pretend that the nicely-wrapped pork chops at the grocery store butcher will not put blood on my hands when I purchase them. So, I don’t.
When did you start T.O.F.U. Magazine? And what inspired you to create a vegan magazine?
T.O.F.U. started in 2007. Actually, it may have started in late 2006, but it all happened in such a progressive way that I don’t know if I could pick a certain point. At the very least, I can say the first issue was released in Spring 2007.
Of course, there were months of planning, organizing, discussing, and stumbling before that first step was publicly made. In fact, before the magazine was even an idea shared between two people, there was a series of other vegan publications done in Halifax, Nova Scotia. If it wasn’t for their success, I doubt T.O.F.U. would have seemed like the next logical step. Luckily, they did succeed, and it just made sense to push further and try to create a space where people could talk about their veganism.
How did you get the magazine up and running? Were there many obstacles you had to face to get it started?
It’s weird to say when I try to look at it from outside of the whole thing, but the magazine just happened. It made sense for my partner and I to take the vegan publication to the next step. We had done the cookbook thing on a small scale, and she had created a vegan dining guide to Halifax, so we knew we had to go bigger with the next project.
I had already had several years under my belt in terms of doing music events, dealing with venues, media, and artists, and I had helped several acts release music on a small label I ran called Tumbleweed Entertainment. So, releasing the magazine followed a similar path. Sure, there were some differences, such as contacting and chasing after advertisers to try and find the funding to print the issue, but other things, like the media and organizing the whole thing, were similar.
In the end, we just felt like we had to do it. So, we did. Sure, I would change plenty of things about that first issue, and even every issue since, but at the time, I think we did what we could and, luckily, there were folks to support it.
Did you find you had a lot of success right off the bat being one of the few vegan magazines out there?
“A lot of success” depends on your definition. The first three print issues have sold out, but none of them did right off the bat. It’s been a slow process, but each issue seems to be bigger than the last, and things happen here and there that suggest the word is spreading. Plus, there are more and more avenues now to get the word out. When T.O.F.U. started, things like Twitter and Facebook were just babies on the scene.
What did you do before you started T.O.F.U. Magazine?
T.O.F.U. has always been a side project, so I’ve always had a full-time job or at least been in the middle of trying to find one. Before I started T.O.F.U., I worked at a record store and I helped bands tour, release music, and all those other things that bands do. Previous to that, I managed a venue/restaurant/Internet cafe called the Ceilidh Connection.
Sometime after the magazine started I became involved in the tech industry, and outside of a stint in Korea as a children’s book writer for an English school company, I’ve stayed in that area. Currently, I’m a Copy Editor for a web/marketing company called JAC based in St. John’s, NL, but I work from home in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Confused yet?
From your experience of operating a successful magazine, what advice would you give others who are interested in publishing?
Just do it. If you want to do it, if you feel you have something to say or you want to help others say what they want to say, make it happen. It’s 2012. You don’t have to depend on some company to call you up, hand you a contract, and tell you they’ll push what you want to sell. You don’t even have to sell anything. T.O.F.U. is currently a pay-what-you-want digital download, and we’re doing that with minimal cost to us.
Of course, I’ve learned plenty along the way since even before the first issue, but that’s all part of the fun. The first thing has to be the drive to want to do something, after that it’s all just the parts that will make a great story when someone asks you how you got started.
What is the best advice you can give someone who is new to a vegan lifestyle?
Do what makes you comfortable. Do what let’s you sleep at night, and if you do something that keeps you up at night, don’t beat yourself up over it forever. The vegan lifestyle, like so many other things in life, should be viewed as a work in progress. You’re living in a world that is not made for vegans. Things are going to get messy the minute you step outside your door, and, if you’re living with non-vegans (family, friends, roommates, etc…), things might be messy inside that door too.
Who are some people that inspire you?
I don’t know if I have certain people that inspire me. In some ways, as cliche as it sounds, everyone I’ve met has inspired me in some way. Whether it was to be like them or to be nothing like them, there was inspiration. I have some amazing people in my life who are working hard to make sure the world is a much better place when they leave it, and I’ve met plenty of people who just seem to want to make their life as good as it can be without much concern for anyone else. Together, they help me to find a balance, and they keep me in touch with both sides of things so I don’t feel like the world is full of happiness and change or greed and ignorance at any one time.
What can we expect to see in the future for T.O.F.U. Magazine?
In the future, we’re going to keep tackling bigger issues that reach outside of veganism, but that are so intertwined with the lifestyle that they shouldn’t be ignored. Of course, we’ll also throw in a few recipes, some D.I.Y. stuff about gardening, starting veg feasts, and maybe a city review or two.
Where can people get the latest copy of T.O.F.U. Magazine?
Thanks again Ryan for taking the time to answer my questions!
Don’t forget to grab the latest copy of T.O.F.U. Magazine to get your fill of vegan focused articles, recipes and tips. Since they want everyone to have a copy, all their digital copies are “pay what you can”, so there’s no set price. That’s how great they are! So make sure you spread the word and keep an eye out on their Facebook page for updates on new releases.