Canadian IFAJ Congress Tour set to begin

Samantha Beattie

Canada looks forward to welcoming the world in a few short weeks for the IFAJ 2011 Congress, September 14-18, with nearly 265 delegates from 33 countries.

Beginning in Guelph – Ontario’s major agricultural center – the congress tours go to the three Great Lakes regions of Lake Ontario, Lake Huron and Lake Erie. The congress ends in Niagara Falls for entertainment, food and some fascinating professional development.

A pre-congress tour is taking place in British Columbia, with post-congress tours focused on Atlantic Canada and on research at the University Guelph.

For the first time, the IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism program will include a boot camp that will be held in conjunction with the congress, as well as a master class for journalists from underdeveloped countries. As well, participants are offered the chance to attend Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show just prior to the congress.

“We’ve tried to offer something for everyone, and we’re excited that so many IFAJ members are coming here,” says congress co-chair Owen Roberts.

Visit the congress website at


Sharing Your Congress Stories

Stephen Cadogan
IFAJ Communications Chair

Are you one of the lucky few who are looking forward to visiting Canada for the IFAJ Congress?

If you are, those staying home would love to hear about your adventures and impressions of this leading agricultural nation.

Many of you will be putting together reports, so we welcome you to submit copies to use in the IFAJ newsletter or website, so that your colleagues can find out what they missed.

Where are the best stories likely to arise? We are intrigued by the industry where Atlantic Canada developed- from what is basically a roadside weed- the blueberry business that now produces one of the worlds most popular and healthy fruit drinks.

There's ample journalistic material at the University of Guelph, such as the Enviropig, the  Space and Advanced Life Support Agriculture, the foods that were “born in Guelph”, or the car parts such as seats and bumpers, made with crop materials.

Canada's Outdoor Farm Show at Woodstock will provide stories, and we're all waiting to hear what sustainability issues are we missing, in the professional development session during the main congress in Niagara Falls on Saturday.

Congress participants will visit Ontario's tomato ketchup and baked beans centers (but if you think bad news is more interesting, you could ask some Canadian colleagues about the state's failed pigeon and emu ventures, which have been making the news in recent years).

New Freelance Directory on IFAJ Website

Stephen Cadogan
IFAJ Communications Chairman

There is a new freelance directory on the IFAJ website, for writers, photographers or broadcasters. The old freelance directory will be taken off the website soon, meaning that freelancers should register in this new directory.

Directory members are encouraged to add files of their work and personal information which may be of interest to editors using the IFAJ website to seek freelance services.

To register for the new freelance directory go to and click on ‘IFAJ Network’, to register as a freelancer. Fill in the personal data, and a link will be sent by email in order to complete registration.

IFAJ Sponsor Alltech Initiates Ag Communications Portal

31/8/09 Sean and Gayle Dunne with Pearse Lyons, Altech at An Evening With The Greatest Muhammed Ali organaized by the Altech Muhammed Ali Centre, at the Berkley Coiurt Hotel, Dublin. Picture:Arthur Carron/Collins

Stephen Cadogan
IFAJ Communications Chairman

IFAJ Sponsor Alltech has partnered with global online network iHigh to create a web portal and streaming video channel specifically devoted to agriculture. The Alltech Ag Network will provide a platform to tell agriculture’s stories, specifically through live online broadcasts.

To learn more about the network’s features, which include live streaming, mobile broadcasting, unlimited photo uploads, event promotion calendar and email marketing functions, visit

Content on the Alltech Ag Network is user generated, allowing consumers to craft what they want to see and how they’d like to see it. Using iHigh’s unique content platform, organizations such as the National High School Rodeo, US Pony Club, USA Swimming, the Bass Federation, BMX tracks, youth basketball organizations, and school clubs are able to share their events in real time with a global audience who can access the streaming video on any computer or mobile device.

Dr. Pearse Lyons, president and founder of Alltech said, “Over the last several decades, we’ve seen our ever-growing population migrate to cities, away from the origins of their food. At Alltech, we are committed to narrowing the gap between family and farm, and we believe the Alltech Ag Network on iHigh will further this mission as it highlights the world of agriculture.”

IFAJ “Exposure-4-Development” tour

José van Gelder
The Netherlands

IFAJ is considering offering members the opportunity to go on a press tour to Africa. A year ago, IFAJ and Agriterra planned to investigate three things: an annual master class preceding the congresses, a press tour to a developing country and the possibility for farm journalists to register as experts in order to aid farmers’ organizations in developing countries. We managed to work out the plans for an annual Master Class based on our experiences in Belgium. As for the expert database that Agriterra runs, we have plans to work out a proposal later this year.

This leaves the press tour to a developing country. Plans for this are becoming more real. The “Exposure-4-Development” tour as we call it, would be another member benefit and possibly the beginning of a series of development tours for ag journalists in the future. For this first tour, we would offer 15 IFAJ members the opportunity for a first-hand look at farm issues in the developing world- including world hunger and its causes, and look at the potential solutions and ongoing strategies. The key for these tours is not to concentrate on the NGO and bilateral exchanges, but more on the efforts of farmers themselves (both in developed and developing countries).

Agriterra will organize the tour in close cooperation with the IFAJ and the Kenyan farmers’ organization, which will ensure we stay in rural Kenya and not 5-star hotels!

We are working to find sponsor money to keep costs low to members applying for this tour. Organizing speakers, experts, translators, guides, etc. through the farmers’ organization in Kenya helps too.

The IFAJ Exposure-4-Development tour – which we hope to present to you soon - will provide professional improvement and new experiences for ag journalists. This shared experience will broaden global perspectives and shed more light on the plight of poverty around the world and the farmers’ initiatives to fight this.

This event would take place early 2012, preferably in March or April. We will try to offer members a seat in this tour to Africa for a very reasonable price during the upcoming congress.

Participants dig in for ethics in the trenches

Passion and reason met in the middle before a packed room at the Ag Media Summit in New Orleans, where almost 80 participants had a rare opportunity to hash out real-world ethical dilemmas during a panel discussion titled “Ethics in the Trenches.”

Industry veterans Karen McMahon of Farm Industry News, Lyle Orwig of Charleston/Orwig and Steve Goldsmith of Syngenta tackled thorny issues based on case studies adopted in 2010 to support the American Agricultural Editors’ Association affiliate code of ethics.

Topics included dealing with the threat of pulled advertising, transparency regarding information impacting research, and the appropriateness of ghost writing for social media.

The panel discussion featured appreciable input from audience members, including a number of publication editors from leading commercial and commodity magazines. They repeatedly emphasized the need for transparency and the importance of a working knowledge of the AAEA codes of ethics.

The codes have been developed as guidelines for those working as editors and ag communicators. Session moderator and IFAJ Secretary General Owen Roberts of the University of Guelph said the discussion reflected how the codes are relevant at every stage in a professional career. He said he appreciated how the panelists related personal experiences to the case studies, to help the audience understand their perspective and perhaps see themselves in the panelists' answers.

"The panelists were highly experienced, deep thinkers who care passionately about communication ethics," he said.  "They've served their time in the trenches, and we were fortunate to have their perspectives simultaneously laid out in front of us for all to hear."

Roberts said the session underlines why it's invaluable to take part in professional development activities and attend conferences.

"You could pick this up elsewhere, but there's no substitute for experiencing the exchange between the panelists themselves and the audience members," he said.

The codes of ethics and case studies can be found by visiting

About IFAJ News

Send news or article ideas to IFAJ News editor Karlie Elliott Bowman at k.elliott.bowman(at) October issue deadline is September 15, 2011. Never let language be a hurdle for sending ideas or news items. Feel free to respond in your native language and we will work together to share your news items. Also, be sure to share IFAJ News with your colleagues. Encourage them to visit to subscribe. IFAJ News is a publication of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists. IFAJ gives agricultural journalists and communicators a platform for professional development and international networking. To learn more about IFAJ visit our website at If you have questions about IFAJ, please do not hesitate to contact our executive secretary Connie Siemes, at P.O. Box 205, 6920 AE Duiven, The Netherlands, Ph 0031 573 451975, e-mail: secretary(at) You can also follow IFAJ on Twitter @IFAJ, and you can find us on Facebook.


IFAJ News September 2011

Why I’m glad to be a journalist

Mike Wilson
IFAJ President

Lately I have had the chance to do something I haven’t done in many, many years: reflect on the reasons why I became a journalist.

This journey into the past was motivated by a call to teach one of the classes we are holding in the upcoming Master Class workshop, to be held at the 2011 IFAJ Congress in Canada. A group of handpicked journalists from developing nations will be there, thanks to a grant from Pioneer Hi-Bred International. We have planned a two-day session with lots of give and take on agricultural communications and the state of journalism in the world today.

If this is anything like the first Master Class program, held at last year’s congress, it will be the teachers learning more from the students. Many of us IFAJ ‘lifers’ came away with a new appreciation for trying to do a professional job as a journalist in an environment that lacks for even the basic resources, like laptops and cameras.

Even so, when the organizers asked me to talk about why journalism matters, I found myself thinking about the reasons why I got into – and stayed – in this profession. Surely it wasn’t about the money. We know journalists don’t make a lot, even in developed countries.

I started to think about the things that really matter to a journalist: trust, credibility, connecting with readers, telling a story, and making a difference in someone’s life.  Over the past 30 years in this business, I’ve written countless articles and talked to thousands of people in a quest to tell the truth, inspire, and make a reader’s life better for having read something I wrote. That’s it, mostly. It’s a pretty simple goal when you think about it.

Then I started to think about all the things that go into the act of good journalism, and my head started to spin. In a world awash in information, how do you make your work stand out? How do you create a reputation so that readers or viewers come to depend on you as a trusted source of truthful information? How do you ensure credibility? How do you learn to appreciate the universal standards that make an excellent journalist, no matter what format you are communicating in?

I learned some of those values in a classroom, but so much more I learned through experience. That’s probably the way it is for most of us. We learn the rights and the wrongs, either through our own work, or by talking to our colleagues. And that’s where IFAJ comes in. This organization is a unique opportunity to become better at our craft. Whether that comes from a writing or photo contest, or a debate on journalism ethics, that’s how we learn. And get better.

In a world awash in imprecise web data, a world where anyone with a blog or twitter account thinks they are an expert, our challenge is to make our work stand out above the crowd. Being an excellent journalist isn’t easy, but it is easy to tell an excellent journalist from a pretender. Doing your best work may not make you rich, but it has its own rewards. We all must strive to be the best communicators we can be. IFAJ is one way to make that happen.

Lyle Vanclief Named Honorary Chair of 2011 IFAJ Cong

Lilian Schaer

Former Canadian Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Hon. Lyle Vanclief, has been named Honorary Chair of the 2011 IFAJ Congress, which is September 14-18 in Guelph and Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.

IFAJ 2011 Congress co-chair Owen Roberts said the former federal minister has a long and deep relationship with farm writers, having represented the federal government at the podium numerous times at farm writers’ meetings.

"The organizing committee is proud Lyle Vanclief accepted our invitation to be the congress’s honorary chair,” said Roberts. “Few Canadians know agriculture as well as he does – from operating a farm to setting national agricultural policy – or have his appreciation for Canadian agriculture and the role of the agricultural media.”

Vanclief served as a Member of Parliament from 1988 to 2004. During that time he was Opposition Critic for Agriculture, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture, Chairman of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture and Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

Prior to his political career, Vanclief operated Willowlee Farms Limited in Prince Edward County, a diversified livestock, fruit and vegetable, and grain and oilseeds farm now owned and operated by his son. He has been honored may times for his contributions to Canadian agriculture, and in 2010 was inducted into the Canadian Agriculture Hall of Fame.

“This is an exciting time for Canadian agriculture and I am pleased to be part of the Congress and to welcome visitors from across Canada and many international countries, all of whom will have a chance to see the innovations and accomplishments driving Canada’s diverse agricultural sector,” Vanclief said.

View Photo Competition Entries Today

Who will win the 2011 IFAJ Photo Competition, sponsored by Delaval? Visit for a preview of pictures entered in the competition. Photos will be judged on creativity, quality, impact, and enhancement of the associated story or technical copy. Winners will be announced at Congress. Contest categories include: people, production, and nature/landscape.

Member Blogs Provide Great Information

Stephen Cadogan
IFAJ Communications Chairman

Rules for identifying livestock vary among countries, making it an interesting international agricultural topic, which is well covered in recent blogs accessible from

It's certainly controversial in New Zealand, while on the other side of the world, one of England's top cattle breeders and exhibitors fell foul of that country's rules recently.
Some Canadian farmers are using radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to keep track of their animals as they move from farm to farm.

I came across great articles on these topics after clicking “Member Blogs” on our website. It was Allan Barber's blog from New Zealand, titled Barber's Meaty Issues  ( that brought me up to date on how one of England's largest dairy herds had been fined more than £7,000 for various breaches of animal identification and movement laws. Cattle were moved between premises run by the farming company without appropriate disease testing or paperwork. As in Ireland, all cattle in the UK must have passports, and 58 passports were found on the premises of the fined farmer for cattle that died more than seven days prior to the time limit for registering deaths. How these breaches in the 900-cow herd were first detected made for a fascinating story. But what struck Allan Barber was the ineffectiveness of animal identification and movement control in the UK, and the ease with which farmers determined to abuse the system can avoid detection. He made some comparisons with the New Zealand system.

Meanwhile, Lilian Schaer of Canada wrote in her blog about RFID tags being used with beef cattle as  an electronic passport of sorts. Canada started requiring farmer’s ear tag their cattle in January 2001. There are many different ear tags on the market, but the RFID tags allow for electronic storage and reading of data, and can’t be lost or ripped out of the ear easily.

This all shows the amount of useful information available from IFAJ member blogs, which are all available in English, except for the German language blogs from Adrian Krebs, Switzerland and Barbara Kanzian, Austria. Also in our member blogs is the very informative blog from Daniel Aghan Odongo and his colleagues in Mesha Kenya.

Updates from 2011 Balkan Tour

Marina Tanaskovic

Updates from the 2011 Balkan Tour 2011 are now available. Visit for more.

Werblow Named American Agricultural Editors’ Association 2011 Writer of the Year

Den Gardner
United States

Steve Werblow, freelancer writer and contributing editor to The Furrow magazine, has been named the American Agricultural Editors’ Association (AAEA) 2011 Writer of the Year. Werblow was recognized at the Ag Media Summit in New Orleans.

The award, sponsored annually by Syngenta, recognizes an AAEA member each year for outstanding writing. It is based on the rankings given by an AAEA team of writing judges after they read candidate portfolios – three stories chosen by the writers. All three articles selected were from The Furrow magazine.

One judge described Werblow’s writing this way: “Wow. It doesn’t matter the topic for this writer; [he] makes it come alive because of [his] energetic style approaching assignments with the same dedication as a master carpenter planning and constructing a fine custom cabinet.”

Werblow covers western agriculture from his Ashland, Ore., home, just north of the California border. A 1988 graduate of Cornell University's College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, he has been a freelance writer since 1995. Steve has written about agriculture on six continents for an array of agricultural magazines. He has also been active in AAEA as a board member, foundation trustee, program chair for the Ag Media Summit and member, now chair of the AAEA International Committee.

Ag Journalists Plan Madrid Gathering for October

José van Gelder
The Netherlands

Immediately before World Food Day on October 16 farm leaders from many countries, including developing countries will gather for an AgriCord meeting in Madrid on October 13 and 14.

For ag journalists, this is a unique opportunity for interviews. This year’s AgriCord meeting theme is, “Food prices–From crisis to stability.”

For more information on World Food Day visit

Great Britain Guild Announces New Leaders

Joe Watson
Great Britain

The Great Britain Guild recently appointed two new leaders to its organization. They are Adrian Bell and Jane Craigie. Adrian was appointed as chairman of the Guild. He is the second public relations professional to hold the post. He takes over from the first, Nicholas Bond. New vice-chairman is Jane Craigie, another PR executive.

Adrian's involvement with agriculture extends beyond PR. From his home in the Cotswolds, in the west of England, he not only co-manages, the marketing agency he and a colleague established in 2007, but also farms a 100 acre holding producing pasture-fed meat from traditional English breeds for sale to local restaurants and other customers.

"Running the two businesses has allowed me to achieve my ambition of earning my living from the land, while also having the opportunity to contribute to guiding and influencing the industry's behaviour and opinions through the work I do for my clients," he said.  "Many of them also value the fact that I can see campaigns and products through a farmer's eyes!

"I believe agriculture's one of the most exciting industries in which to be involved right now, what with the quickening debate over resource use, food security and sustainable living. We've a responsibility, as journalists and communicators, to provide those within our industry with access to quality information as well as helping to generate a more positive perception and greater understanding of it amongst external audiences."

Adrian also has an interest in agricultural education, keen to ensure that young people know what a career in agriculture – whether as farmer, scientist, consultant or journalist – can bring. To this end, he works with the Royal Agricultural College in England to provide course input and mentoring. He is also a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Farmers, one of the many historic incorporated trade organizations that operate in the City of London.

Jane has combined her agricultural and horticultural education with a career in marketing and communications.

She started up her own communications and corporate affairs business in 2004. Her clients include The Oxford Farming Conference, BASF plc, RAGT Seeds, The Bank of Scotland and Lloyds TSB Scotland, DHL Supply Chain and the European Food and Farming Partnerships (EFFP).

Jane is based in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. She has been a member of the Guild since the early 1990s. She sits on the committee organizing the IFAJ 2014 Congress in Scotland and which is scheduled to be held in Aberdeen, the oil capital of Europe and with Houston, Texas, and Calgary, Canada, one of the world's three main oil and gas industry hubs.

Jane was the first Waitangi Scholar in 1994 (funded by the New Zealand Dairy Board), was one of 12 selected for the 2010 Institute of Agricultural Management Leadership Development Programme, is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing as well as a member of the Chartered Institute of PR.

Pioneering 'Irish Times' Journalist and Broadcaster Passes

Joe Watson
Great Britain

Ella Shanahan, one of the pioneering women in print and broadcast journalism in the 1970s in Ireland, passed on July 28 at the age of 60. She was the former London editor of The Irish Times and one of Ireland’s first female agriculture correspondents and one of the first female presenters on RTÉ Radio’s News at One and a leading journalist of her generation.

Her farming background, precocious talent, extensive contacts, sociability and all-round ability led to a 35-year career in newspapers and broadcasting, both as a correspondent and editor, subsequently working in PR before returning to print journalism.

Ella worked for 27 years with The Irish Times as agriculture correspondent and political reporter, and then London editor from 1988 onwards. She covered the Anglo-Irish story, the last years of Margaret Thatcher’s tenure as prime minister, the British Midland Kegworth disaster, the Hillsborough stadium disaster and the release of the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four.

She was described as a social butterfly, outgoing, gregarious, witty and in demand, she was a great cook and loved food, wine and entertaining.

For more on the passing of Ella visit

Agricultural Media Summit Sets Another Record for U.S. Guild

Steve Werblow
United States

The Agricultural Media Summit set a new attendance record for the event, drawing more than 600 people to New Orleans, Louisiana, for professional development workshops, a trade fair, non-stop networking and a tour of several of the region’s port facilities.

The Summit combines the annual meetings of several of the largest agricultural communications associations in the U.S., including the American Agricultural Editors Association (AAEA), Livestock Publications Council (LPC), American Business Media Agri-Council and the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow, an organization of college students.

Professional development workshops form the core of the program, offering attendees opportunities to hone writing, editing, photography, design, sales and management skills.  Among the best-attended sessions were writing workshops by Ann Wylie, design sessions by Russell Viers and a panel moderated by IFAJ’s Owen Roberts that explored AAEA’s ethics guidelines and case studies.

Drawing a page from IFAJ Congresses, the Summit also featured story-gathering opportunities. A panel of government officials explored environmental issues in the Gulf of Mexico. Transportation industry leaders discussed the nation’s road, rail and river infrastructure, and agricultural association spokespeople described an industry-wide analysis of public opinion in the U.S. on key agricultural themes. Visits to the Port of New Orleans, a Zen-Noh grain export facility and a Bunge terminal rounded out the experience for dozens of visitors who came in a day early to gain insight on a key gateway for American imports and exports.

Among the attendees was a contingent from Canada, intently analyzing all elements of the Summit to help them fine tune arrangements for their upcoming IFAJ Congress.

Planning has already begun for next year’s Summit in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Of course, IFAJ colleagues are more than welcome to join us for more workshops, story opportunities and the region’s famous, fiery southwestern cooking.  For more information, visit