Ag Journalists Learn About Solutions for a Green Future in Sweden

Karlie Elliott Bowman
IFAJ News Editor

The 56th IFAJ Congress was held August 15-19, in Sweden and focused on "Solutions for a green future".

The conference took place near Lake Mälaren, 35 km west of Stockholm Central Station. 150 delegates from 30 countries attended.

Lena Johansson (Sweden), Congress General said, “It was a great opportunity to welcome you all to our country. Congresses like these don’t just happen. There is an enormous amount of work behind them. I am so grateful to all who made this congress possible, all co-workers, sponsors and the farmers and food producers who kindly opened their premises for us. It is so inspiring to work in agriculture these days. It feels like our questions are getting the right attention again. It is very interesting to discuss them with friends and colleagues from all over the world.”

Attendees had the opportunity to embark on one of eight excursions and participate in professional development activities.

The Congress concluded with the IFAJ Nobel banquet, in the Golden Hall of the Stockholm City Hall, where the Nobel laureates are named.

Johansson said, “It was a memory of a lifetime to host the farewell dinner in the Golden Hall. Unless we receive the Nobel price, this was probably our one chance to dine there.”

The Post Congress tour visited Gotland, the biggest island of Sweden, situated in the Baltic Sea.

Owen Roberts (Canada), IFAJ Vice President said, "The Swedish guild deserves the highest accolades for organizing such a well-planned congress, rich in news, culture and camaraderie. The foresight and planning that went into the whole congress -- including the closing night banquet, held in the same facility as the Nobel Prize is awarded -- gave congress participants maximum value at minimum cost, thanks to wise decisions by the organizing committee and a strong commitment by sponsors."

If you missed the Congress, catch up with online via IFAJ’s Facebook page and Twitter, using #IFAJ or via

And, look for more details about the 2013 Congress, hosted in Argentina.

Our Swedish Melting Pot

Holly Spangler (USA)
Associate Editor, Prairie Farmer
2012 IFAJ Bootcamp participant

This story was reprinted with the author’s permission. The original story can be accessed via the author, Holly Spangler’s, blog (

Alexis from Canada. Mercedes from Argentina. Nikolai from Australia. Calvin from Zambia. Ciara from Ireland. Lindi from South Africa. Jeri from Slovenia.

This is a slice. Just a slice.

As I sit here in Stockholm at the end of Day 1, I am in awe – truly awestruck – at how different we all are. And yet the same.

Today, we began the day by introducing ourselves. We are two groups of people at the International Ag Journalists Federation, or IFAJ, Congress. I belong with the Young Leaders Boot Camp, which is as it sounds. The other group we are meeting and training with is known as the Master Class – a group of ag journalists from countries who have not had the privilege of the same kind of journalism school we have. They are here to train, to learn.

How different are we? I learned this morning that a Zambian farm magazine has started a mobile device for reporting maize prices – this is what you do when you have no Board of Trade, no open pricing structure, and no internet service. I learned that Asians are buying Australian farmland in order to control food supply, and Australians aren't necessarily happy about that. I learned that Gambia's largest farmer is the president, and he can and does require forced farm labor. I also learned that the media is a threat to Gambian government, a fact not necessarily comforting to a Gambian journalist.

I don't often think about freedom of the press, which is the luxury of those who know no different. But I should. Today I also learned that where there's no free press, there's often hunger.

People of different backgrounds have different takes on the world, too. And on the farm. Like GMOs, and who should have them.

Take Sweden and Illinois; Sweden has a fifth of the amount of farmland compared to Illinois, but its farmers make 20% of their income from government subsidies. Sweden is also in the process of enacting more stringent animal welfare guidelines. They will hold their farmers to these – access to natural behaviors, no stalls/crates, no hormones, antibiotics only when sick – but currently import 50% of their beef, and only require imported meat to be hormone and antibiotic free. In other words? They hold their own farmers to a higher regulatory standard, and when the bureaucracy forces them out of business, they import meat raised at lower standards. I would really like to talk to an actual Swedish farmer about this.
But then Lindi of South Africa and I started talking. She was terrifically interested in our Illinois Farm Families program, maybe even in covering it. South Africa, it would seem, is in the same boat we were 15 years ago: no one much cares where their food comes from, nor pays attention to it. I warned her that when we got to that point, it gave the activists and those with agendas the opportunity to feed misinformation (a nice way of saying "lies") to consumers.

And so it is. Lindi from South Africa, Calvin from Zambia. Lots of opinions, definite middle ground. And always, a fabulous opportunity to broaden horizons.
And speaking of horizons, we wound up our day on a dinner cruise through the Stockholm harbor, cruising along the Baltic Sea as the sun set over Stockholm. This is a sentence I did not imagine myself ever writing, and I ask myself, once again, how in the world? Like Shannon said, we're not doin' too bad.

IFAJ News September 2012

A lot to talk about

Karlie Elliott Bowman
IFAJ News Editor

There is so much exciting news to share from the recent IFAJ Congress, hosted by our Swedish colleagues. The Swedish Guild certainly provided an exciting, well- organized and memorable Congress. Their leadership stood out, providing premier opportunities for the 150 attendees to see another side of agriculture and collect valuable information, hopefully leading to impactful stories.

This newsletter contains a good deal of Congress follow up. In this issue, you hear from IFAJ’s newly elected president, Markus Rediger of Switzerland, recap the Congress, meet the new IFAJ Presidium, hear about one bootcamp participants experience and learn more about the new IFAJ Facebook participation policy.

In the October newsletter, you’ll learn about the IFAJ contest results (which are currently online, if you can’t handle the suspense--, meet the newest member guild to IFAJ, take a look at the IFAJ strategic plan and receive an update from the Japanese Guild.

There is much to share in the upcoming months, so please look forward to receiving the newsletter in your inbox. Personally, I hope you find this newsletter (and every IFAJ News) informational and resourceful. Please feel free to contribute articles or submit comments by emailing me at k.elliott.bowman(at)

IFAJ: A network for professional colleagues

Markus Rediger (Switzerland)
IFAJ President

Thank you for trusting me as your new President. I look forward to serving IFAJ as president.

I am deeply convinced that the mission of IFAJ to global agriculture is still as relevant as it was decades ago. I have experienced this in the past years in Switzerland and Europe, and serving as IFAJ vice president over the past few years.

I have a passion for being part of the mission of IFAJ as an organization of volunteers. We are all linked to one another in a worldwide organization of journalism and agriculture and we want to be relevant to our members. We write and talk about those who profit from world agriculture but also for those who suffer from world agriculture. If we do a good job, all will profit from a professional agricultural press.

To be an ag journalist today we need a global network of colleagues – called IFAJ. It is important to be at home in a local job, a national guild and also linked to networks of journalists and communicators worldwide. Although crops are grown locally, agriculture is a global business.

We are fans – and not alone. When the tennis player Roger Federer gave a press conference in London last month, 400 journalists were there. They were asking questions about the Olympic games, medals, victories and lost games. Some journalists began their question with, “I am a big fan and want to know this and that....” How can a journalist who is a fan be objective and neutral?

We discussed similar questions in professional workshops at the recent IFAJ congress. It was great to hear from participants in the Alltech young leaders program that they recognized they are not alone with their questions. Many of us face the same professional challenges. You never walk alone.
With congresses, and especially the new strategic plan recently approved, we want to help you do a better job as professionals. And maybe through our network become a fan of agriculture worldwide. It is a fascinating world of growing importance.

What should we expect from IFAJ? Connectedness, international contacts and a network of colleagues around the globe to support each other as journalists. IFAJ can provide recognition through contests and prizes, opportunities for professional development, insights from around the globe, ideas, press cards, friendships – and much more. IFAJ supports a free ag press for a free world, encourages freedom of press, and supports journalists in countries with limited free press.

As president, I want to listen to you, our members and guilds and our partners.
I want to learn from what is going on in journalism, communication, agriculture and the food sector worldwide. I want to lead IFAJ with the presidium and the executive committee according to the vision we share and the decisions we take.

Let’s support each other in telling the world about agriculture. Let's take care of the IFAJ together, as colleagues and friends.

New Presidium Elected to IFAJ

Karlie Elliott Bowman
IFAJ News Editor

IFAJ installed a new presidium at the 56th Congress in Sweden. The new officers, elected every two years, will serve the organization through 2014.

The members of the new presidium are:
Markus Rediger of Switzerland, is the managing editor of Landwirtschaftlicher Informationsdienst for the Agricultural Information Center LID in Bern, Switzerland.

Markus has previously served as IFAJ vice president and treasurer. He also co-chaired the 49th IFAJ congress held in Switzerland and is active with the Swiss Guild of Agricultural Journalists.

Vice President
Owen Roberts of Canada, is the director of research communications and an agricultural communications professor at the University of Guelph. He is also a freelance journalist.

He was the past IFAJ secretary general. He co-chaired the 2011 IFAJ Congress in Canada and helped developed the IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism award and Master Class program. He has been involved with the Canadian Farm Writers’ Federation since 1988.

Secretary General
Riitta Mustonen of Finland was elected to secretary general. Riitta is a journalist in Maaseudun Tulevaisuus, working with the Farmers’ Union newspaper.

Riitta is a member of the board of Agricultural Journalists’ guild of Finland and former president of the guild. She also helped organize the IFAJ Congresses in Finland in 1986 and 2001 and the pre-congress tour in 2012.

James Campbell of Northern Ireland was elected treasurer, a capacity he has served since 2008. James is the editor of the Northern Edition of Irish Farmers Journal.

James is an active member of the Guild of Agricultural Journalists of Ireland, and served as the Northern Section of the Guild’s treasurer for 20 years. He is also a past chairman of the Northern Section and was president of the ‘All-Ireland’ Guild from 1993 until 1996.

Past President
Mike Wilson, of the United States, will serve a one-year term as past president. He is the executive editor of Farm Futures magazine.

Past President

Mike Wilson, of the United States, will serve a one-year term as past president. He is the executive editor of Farm Futures magazine.

Master Class & Boot Camp Explore Issues Facing Ag Journalists

Karlie Elliott Bowman
IFAJ News Editor

The second IFAJ Master Class and Boot Camp explored issues facing agricultural journalists globally. Attendees represented all hemispheres, bringing unique perspectives to participants.

The IFAJ Master Class and Boot Camp took place in Stockholm, prior to the 2012 IFAJ Congress.

Many thanks goes to José van Gelder of Agriterra, the agricultural development agency based in the Netherlands, for organizing the event.

Experience more with the Master Class and Boot Camp via their blog,

IFAJ Facebook standards established

Karlie Elliott Bowman
IFAJ News Editor

Standards have been established for participation in IFAJ's Facebook discussion.

IFAJ's communications committee, chaired by Marianne Mork (Norway), announced the standards as part of a new Facebook participation policy, at the federation's executive meeting in Sweden.

According to the policy, which was accepted by the executive, all IFAJ members are welcomed and encouraged to participate with the IFAJ Facebook page. The policy requests that participants and commenters be courteous at all times, and that remarks made should relate to professional matters pertaining to IFAJ, agricultural journalism and communications.

Comments not meeting those requirements will be removed.

The policy is published at

Mork said, “Coming from all over the world, speaking different languages and with all kinds of intercultural communications skills, a Facebook-group like ours can be challenging. In order for everyone to feel included and welcomed we felt we needed some rules. Now we hope to see even more colleagues engage in this forum – knowing that the site will be monitored more closely.”

Communicators at work