Meister Media Worldwide has a long, proud tradition in agricultural media. The company had its beginnings as American Fruit Grower Publishing Company, which was then built around one magazine — AMERICAN FRUIT GROWER, still in publication today.
E.G.K. Meister founded the company in 1932 as president, with his brother, Gilbert, as vice president. They were joined in the 1940s by E.G.K.’s sons, Edward L. Meister, advertising manager and later president, and Richard T. Meister, editorial director and now chairman emeritus.
Under Ed’s and Dick’s direction, American Fruit Grower Publishing Co. expanded through acquisition in the 1950s and 1960s from one publication to seven. New magazine titles included AMERICAN VEGETABLE GROWER, Farm Chemicals (now CROPLIFE), Cotton Trade Journal (now COTTON GROWER), COTTON INTERNATIONAL, and the Farm Chemicals Handbook (now MEISTERPRO CROP PROTECTION HANDBOOK).
The company also grew into a new name, Meister Publishing Co., with headquarters in two century homes in Willoughby, Ohio, about 15 miles east of Cleveland.
The new acquisitions expanded the company’s reach in specialty agriculture both at home and outside of the United States. Ed and Dick Meister traveled the world, promoting COTTON INTERNATIONAL and broadening the scope of Farm Chemicals to include coverage of the global crop protection and fertilizer industries. The seeds were sown for what has become the mission of today’s company — to be a global communications and information center for specialty agriculture.
The next step for the company was to start up publications of its own creation. GREENHOUSE GROWER was launched in 1982 after its beginnings as a special insert in AMERICAN VEGETABLE GROWER. FARM CHEMICALS INTERNATIONAL followed in 1986. In 1992, Meister made another bold move with the start-up of PRODUCTORES DE HORTALIZAS, a Spanish-language magazine for vegetable growers in Mexico, which since has spun off a special edition for Central America.
It was in this same period — in 1989 — that the company constructed and moved into its current, state-of-the-art headquarters in Willoughby, just a few hundred feet from the century houses which had served as home for so long.
Meister jumped back on the acquisition track in 1995 with the purchase of FLORIDA GROWER and ORNAMENTAL OUTLOOK. In doing so, Meister added a third branch office, in Orlando, Florida, to join facilities in Memphis, Tennessee, and Modesto, California. The acquisition also gave Meister the opportunity to expand into the trade show business with the Indian River Citrus Seminar.
The 2000s saw continued growth of the company. The acquisition of Clear Window MultiMedia brought the PRECISION AG franchise and expertise in events and awards programs. In recognition of its increasingly global reach and diversification beyond magazines, the company changed its name to Meister Media Worldwide in 2003.
More start-ups followed in the mid-2000s with TODAY’S GARDEN CENTER, CROPLIFE IRON, and COTTON INTERNATIONAL MAGAZINE. Numerous events, award programs and industry initiatives have followed, as have continuing growth in emedia through enewsletters, websites and other online offerings.
Meister Media Worldwide celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2007 is now in its third generation as a family company. Although all of Ed’s and Dick’s children worked in the company from time to time, none made it their career choice. Two sons-in-law, however, have preserved the legacy: Gary Fitzgerald joined the company in 1979 and is now chairman and CEO, while Bill Miller joined Meister in 1987 and is now vice chairman. Michael DeLuca, a veteran of business-to-business media, serves as president.
And what started as a family business remains a family business. Though the number of employees has grown from six in 1932 to more than 100 today, Meister Media Worldwide remains unique to this day in that all employees continue to be a part of the “family.”