Maija Kallio, Finland

A lot more than a congress

IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism Award recipient 

It did not take me long to realize that this international group of people were my kind of people. Even though the words did not always come out correctly, nor were they always in the right order, we still spoke the same language - interest in sustainable food production, interest in how the world goes around in other parts of the world. 

Texas was the first IFAJ congress I have taken part in. I am sure it will not be the last one. I have already (mentally) enrolled for the organizing group for Finland in 2017. And why is that?  Keep on reading. 

The highlights of the congress were the quick, and sometimes longer, conversations with local and international people – comparing, explaining and showing is how I learn to open my eyes and understand the world a bit better. I was happy to talk and tell about Finland but it was even more interesting to hear other views and ways of thinking. 

On the way to getting the masterpiece

To learn from colleagues in an IFAJ-congress is easy. Just by looking at the marvellous photos in the well-organized [Star Prize for Agricultural Photography] contest and getting to know the people who were there at the right moment pressing the button and creating a piece of art. 

In Texas it was possible to take part in a photo course: well organized again, the teacher was a true professional and the task was both motivating and difficult. And it still suited both beginners and more advanced photographers. Sniffing the Old Flavour of Texas was a hot day at the stockyards. While taking pictures I got to speak with the workers, cowboys and policemen. What a great way to understand the way old Texas was and partly still is. 

Horses and cows

Meeting the farmers - meat, milk and cheese producers - provided interesting and eye-opening moments. I realized the difference in production scale, difference in attitudes towards farming itself, GMO and animal welfare, and the climate difference in Texas compared to Finland. 

The horse business was all new to me, and I got a very close look at it. Breeding, training and trading horses is a huge business in Texas. Live rodeo was just like I had imagined - the national anthem, families, Miss Rodeo and cowboy hats, fast horses and aggressive bulls. It was entertaining for sure. 

New boots were a must for the fun evening program. Dancing, eating and drinking, that is where the fun is. The largest honky tonk bar in the world – I am proud to have danced there when live country music was played and hundreds of cowboys and girls danced. I was there too in my jeans, shirt and boots – just like any of them! 

I am a lot richer than the congress fee. I want to thank the IFAJ and Alltech for this prize – it was a lot more than I had expected. New friends, hundreds of photos, ten of ideas and a nice story on the horse business in Texas – these things cannot be measured in euros, dollars, pounds – whatever currency you use in your country or the next country to host an IFAJ congress.