Connecting with IFAJ members worldwide

There’s great discussion on the IFAJ Facebook page. A wide array of topics and links shared help connect us and learn more about the issues our profession covers. If you want to join the conversation, visit the IFAJ Facebook page at

And remember the IFAJ Facebook policy--please feel free to engage in all discussions in our group, but we will ask you to be courteous at all times. All remarks made should relate to professional matters pertaining to IFAJ, agricultural journalism and communications, only. Comments not meeting these requirements will be removed.

What a good agricultural journalist does in reporting news

Jim Evans
Agricultural Communications Documentation Center

It is not the job of a farm news broadcaster or agricultural journalist to be an "advocate" in reporting news, said Cyndi Young-Puyear in a recent column we have added to the ACDC collection. She is farm director and agricultural operations manager for Brownfield Network, largest agricultural radio network in the U.S. She noted that the topic of journalistic integrity has come up recently in conversations among her peers.

The reason, she explained, is that an outspoken few have listened, read and/or viewed the work of an agricultural journalist, deemed it unfavorable to agriculture, and thrown some mud at the reporter's name. She argued that:
•    Balanced reporting doesn't merit condemnation.
•    Agricultural news reporters serve agriculture best when they cover the entire news story.  

Check with us at if you wish to read her column in Illinois AgriNews. Also, please send us your thoughts about the role of agricultural journalists today and alert us to documents we should be sure to have about this topic in the ACDC collection.

Italian Journalists Open Doors for American Colleague

Steve Werblow

When I called Antonio Brunori, the Italian guild’s representative to the IFAJ Executive, for help arranging some interviews for an article on the historic food industry in Emilia Romagna, I got far more than I’d ever hoped for.  I got great stories, gained about 3 kg through constant eating, and left Italy with a powerful appreciation for the value of networking through IFAJ and the remarkable hospitality of our Italian friends.
The story idea had been germinating in my head for a couple of years, since Antonio and I discussed his experience with the Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano-Reggiano, the cheesemakers’ association that had supported his trip to Berlin for the Executive meeting.  A special issue of The Furrow magazine created a perfect opening for the article, and Antonio immediately assured me that he’d arrange some great meetings in the Emilia Romagna region, centered around the legendary food centers of Bologna and Parma.
Antonio did more than just tap into his network of food industry contacts.  He enlisted the help of Roberto Zalambani, secretary general of UNAGA, the Italian guild; Lisa Bellocchi of the regional guild that includes the area around Bologna; and UNAGA board member Mimmo Bonavita for a Bolognese perspective on the itinerary he was developing.  In turn, they reached out to their friends and contacts, leading us to a variety of remarkable experts who showed us state-of-the-art manufacturing plants and centuries-old processing.  At every stage, we met remarkably knowledgeable, welcoming people.
It’s true that I probably could have scraped together an article from leads collected from the internet, or by signing on to one of the culinary tours that shuttle visitors around Emilia Romagna or Tuscany.  But there is absolutely no way the stories or the research would have been as deep, fruitful or enjoyable as Antonio, Roberto, Lisa and Mimmo made them.  With the perfectly targeted leads from the whole group and Antonio’s insight (and navigational skills), I benefited from the journalistic instincts of fellow writers.  So will The Furrow’s readers.
To me, the experience in Italy sums up the remarkable networking opportunities IFAJ presents – a chance for new insight, new story angles and new friendships.

Bringing AAEA’s Future Into Focus

Kenna Rathai
AAEA associate director

The year 2020 will mark an historic milestone for the American Agricultural Editors’ Association (AAEA) – it’s our 100th anniversary!

While it may seem too early to be thinking about this celebration, it’s not! In 2010, we began gearing up for this exciting event in several ways. We celebrated our 90th anniversary by designing a new website, hosting a trade show booth at the annual Agricultural Media Summit and providing commemorative lapel pins.

We have a sub-committee, chaired by Holly Martin, High Plains Journal editor, who is working with our Legacy Committee to plan projects and events. The committee wanted to be sure we preserved as much history of the agricultural communications business as possible. Much of that history is stored in the memories of our longtime members. When we lose them, we lose the memories.

That’s why it’s our top priority to conduct video interviews with those folks. Thanks to Earl Manning and Dr. Jim Evans for being the first entries into our video archives. Their testimonials can be viewed on our AAEA100 YouTube channel. This spring we’re sending a videographer to Minnesota and Iowa to capture more longtime members. Each year, we will continue to interview a few more, making sure we cover as much of our 100-year history as possible.

The AAEA Legacy Committee has done extensive work creating an official archive of AAEA, which is housed at the University of Illinois and managed by its archivists. The files include old newsletters, records, photos, meeting minutes and more.

AAEA has a rich history, which is full of memorable milestones. Below is a sampling of the many achievements our organization has accomplished since its inception.

1921‑First official meeting in Chicago
1940‑First woman member joined
1942‑First salaried executive secretary hired
1947‑First Distinguished Award winner named
1967‑AAEA joins IFAJ
1968‑First Communications Clinic (predecessor to Ag Media Summit)
1976‑AAEA hosted IFAJ World Congress in Iowa
1982‑First woman president of the AAEA board of directors
1997‑First AAEA member elected president of IFAJ
2005‑AAEA Professional Improvement Foundation received 501c3 status
2008‑Revised AAEA Code of Ethics
2009‑AAEA hosted IFAJ World Congress in Texas
2010‑Redesigned website
2011‑Established AAEA100 YouTube channel

As we look ahead to 2020, we can’t wait to celebrate our 100th anniversary!

IFAJ News February 2013

Share delicate information to prevent pressure

Hans Siemes
The Netherlands
IFAJ seminar about freedom of the press

There is always pressure on agricultural journalists. Even in countries which have freedom of the press, Oliver Vujovic, general secretary of SEEMO (South and East Europe Media Organization) said at a seminar of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ) on January 18th in Berlin.

He reported that his organization, active in 20 countries, had last year about 800 cases in which journalists were attacked or put under severe pressure. Among them are several journalists reporting about abuses in the agricultural sector. He signalized that beneath politicians and business more and more religious groups are putting pressure on journalists. Oliver Vujovic, a former journalist from Serbia, underlined that the IFAJ should continue embracing the freedom of the press, and that the IFAJ together with other organization should give help to agricultural journalists who are under pressure. The executives of the IFAJ, participating in the seminar, fully agreed.

New strategy
The IFAJ organized this seminar because of their new strategy that says that IFAJ must become more global in nature. As a result national associations/guilds from countries without freedom of the press can become ‘guest’. And the IFAJ will start a new online discussion network, bringing together all agricultural journalists, whether they have freedom of the press in their country. So it seems that the IFAJ is loosening the reins at the freedom of the press in agricultural journalism, but the seminar made clear that this is not the case. Freedom of the press will stay the basic fundament for the IFAJ and the organization will support agricultural journalists in these matters.  The IFAJ will not invent the wheel again, but work together with organizations which are specialized in supporting journalists, like SEEMO, a journalistic organization related to the International Press Institute in Vienna.

Publish immediately
General secretary Oliver Vujovic explained how his organization supports journalists that are under pressure. He advised to publish the cases immediately in the press. Don't hide it; otherwise the threats will go on and on. Especially politicians don't like it when these cases are published. It encourages them to take actions, Oliver Vujovic said. The same goes for the police. Further on SEEMO tries to get in contact with the 'attackers' to convince them that they did wrong.

Several advises
Journalists always should be aware that what they write or broadcast can be a problem. He gave several advises to agricultural journalists to protect themselves. “If you have information which is delicate and unique, share it with colleagues or with trustful organizations like SEEMO and the IFAJ. If possible attackers know that, they know it makes less sense to put pressure on one journalist to avoid that he or she is publishing sensible information. They know they can’t kill 100 journalists! “. And if - for whatever reason - it's not possible to publish your story in your own magazine or country, you always have the possibility to publish it - via a friend - in another magazine, on the internet or in another country, he said.
 Whatever happens, publishing was the motto of Oliver Vujovic, because journalists’ task is to inform the public.”Otherwise nobody else will do that”, he said.”Normally the politicians and the police should do that work, but if they don´t it's the duty of the journalists to do the job of the state.”

Internet in Ukraine
Iurii Mykhailov, IFAJ executive and agricultural journalist of Ukraine, gave an example about the importance of publishing by the internet. Though Ukraine has official freedom of the press many journalists had to work in the past years with internal censorship by the owners of the media which had a good relationship with the government. Their only opportunity was to quit their job or to stay. Internet turned out to become the third solution, because digital objective information was spread. Nobody of the government or the owners of the media could do something about is. Especially the young people took advantage of this and tried to get the real objective information by the internet. Although the government and the media owners thought that they had the information under control, it turned out they the government lost the elections because the people believed the information on the internet. Since the elections the internal censorship is stopped. Oliver Vujovic too was enthusiastic about the internet, but warned for the truth on this digital platform. “Always check. To test we made three articles for Wikipedia of non existing persons.”

Absolutely an issue
After discussions, Moderator Owen Roberts concluded, saying  that freedom of the press absolutely is an issue also for agricultural journalists. With the new strategy the IFAJ should do more on this matter. It’s not an option that agricultural journalists in non-free countries will not be supported.

Spain brings order to the “Iberian” pig

Our second look at issues in member countries comes from IFAJ colleague Jesus Lopez Colmenarejo of Spain. He gives us an inside look at issues impacting agriculture in his country.

Jesus Lopez Colmenarejo

The “Iberian” breed of pigs is well known throughout the world for the quality of their products, since the breeding of these animals is associated with an extensive production that is unique in the world, the dehesa.

This ecosystem, which includes natural pastures and oak woods, permits sustainable breeding of pigs, bus also of goats, sheep or cows, has existed in southern Europe since the Middle Ages.
Nowadays the future of the dehesa is endangered mainly due to the low profitability of its products, but it still maintains an “idealistic” image in Spanish society. The use of this image has not always been legitimate and this has frequently caused confusion in the average consumer with little training in the purchase of “Iberian” products.

For example let us imagine the case of a pig that is only 25% Iberian (the remaining 75%, for example Duroc, more productive). To date, this animal could be bred intensively like any large white pig but its hams could use the words “ibérico” (Iberian), “pata negra” (black hoof), or include a photo of some black pigs grazing in a dehesa on their labels. This led consumers to believe that the pig from which that ham came once saw the starry sky or ate acorns and the grasses of the field.

The reality is quite different, since the breeding of 100% Iberian pigs has become increasingly scarce and 100% Iberian products from animals fed with acorns barely account for 4% of the total.
Therefore, to protect the “Iberian” breed and help consumers differentiate their products, the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture recently introduced a bill to regulate this.

The new regulations mean obligations for the producers, manufacturers and marketers.
For example, a farmer who wants to label his pigs as 100% Iberian from the dehesa will have to devote the space previously devoted to four pigs to rasing only one, so there will be a lower supply of “high-end” products, but the consumer who will pay for it, and will be assured that what he buys is really what he is looking for.

Furthermore, at the point of sale there will be three categories depending on the diet and handling: “bellota” (acorn), “cebo de campo” (feed from meadow) and “cebo” (feed), which will be accompanied by the reference “100% ibérico” or “ibérico”, depending on the racial purity of the animal.

Another interesting development is that both the category and the percentage of the Iberian breed must be incorporated in the same visual field as the trademark on the label.

Similarly, and to “put an end” to the confusion when buying, names, logos, trademarks, images, symbols and optional descriptions that may be misleading cannot be used in the labeling. It is over with the indiscriminate use of drawings of acorns, oak trees, dehesas and other illustrations that are so rampant nowadays.

But the really difficult thing was not defining the Quality Standard, but rather will be ensuring its subsequent compliance. To do that, the Administration should be alert at all times in case of infringements that may arise and penalize them in an exemplary manner.

Otherwise all the work would not have done any good.

2012 Master Class Experiences

Jean de Dieu (John) Ininahazwe

 I have been a Communicator/Journalist since 2008. I am the editor of two newsletters (The Farmer and the Rural Voice) in three languages (Kirundi, French and English). I have been privileged to attend both 2012 Master Class and 2012 IFAJ Congress.

The Master Class and the 2012 IFAJ Congress in Sweden were a platform in which we can share our experiences, views, news and cultures. There is no any other way to describe it.

Meeting people fascinates me. I acquired tremendous experiences during the Master Class days. I experienced a quiz on food with a Boot Camp attendee from Australia, Nikolai Beilharz. Our group did not win but as far as I am concerned I learned more about food that evening.

The topic on ethics in journalism was so special to me. As a communicator/journalist I have now to respect the three interests: the publisher, the reader and the advertiser. I aim to become a more skilled communicator/journalist that can generate an interest within my readers. I believe the freedom of the press is fundamental for us as a society enjoy. This program fit me well.

Social media is not so popular and widely used in my country due to the little Internet access, but looking ahead on how Sweden succeeded, I am convinced it may work out for young farmers in Burundi.

What I remember most was the experience of setting up a blog and a Twitter account-- I was dreaming doing so. The 2012 Master Class gave me the opportunity to learn all this. Let be sincere. It was my first ever time to blog and tweet, tremendous experiences! Tweeting Master Class news using #IFAJ2012 was fascinating and now I call it a passion.

Nobody is happier than I am. During the Master Class I got a job. Now, I am a Correspondent of Farm weekly Radio based in Canada with an Africa Office in Burkina Faso. The Head of the Africa Bureau was my roommate and now he is my boss! It was a huge, huge opportunity!

I am currently planning to establish a national guild. In my country, more journalists are interested in political issues. Thanks to experiences acquired in the Master Class, I have the materials no matter what it takes. I and other African journalists who attended the Master Class have a brilliant idea to establish an African Network of Agricultural Journalists. To achieve this, we have first to create national guilds respectively.

Having participated in the Master Class and the 2012 IFAJ Congress was a tremendous experience like never before. My special thanks go to Agriterra who made my attendance possible. It is thanks to Agriterra I acquired these experiences in Sweden.

Cooperatives create opportunities for Kenyan farmers

By Tamara Leigh

The Exposure-4-Development tour of Kenya began in a slaughterhouse and ended awash in roses. They were fitting bookends for an eye-opening journey, filled with the challenges, frustrations and hopes of farmers and agriculture in a country with so much potential and too few structures in place to help realize it.

For six days, our bus bumped, slid and at times sputtered down the highways and back roads of Kenya – 15 journalists jostling for the best seat to get pictures, comparing notes, and sharing impressions as we went.

We met with farmers, extension workers, processors, social entrepreneurs, bankers and dignitaries. The access to people and stories from across the agriculture spectrum was a journalist’s dream and a great credit to the tour organizers. What emerged was a snapshot of Kenyan agriculture today, a glimpse of the future that could be, and a greater understanding of the barriers they face in getting there.

Despite being one of the primary drivers of the Kenyan economy, agriculture lacks transportation and storage infrastructure, effective governance and farmer education, making it difficult to move the nation’s farmers from a collection of subsistence farmers to a sector that can consistently feed their country.

Cooperatives, we learned, are playing a significant role in closing the gap. Across commodities, cooperatives and their less formal cousins, “self-help groups,” are increasing access to local markets, adding value, and providing extension services and education to farmers.

In Keekonyoki, for example, a cooperatively owned livestock market and slaughterhouse is creating value from slaughterhouse waste by developing new ways of capturing bio-gas produced in two anaerobic digesters. The cooperative has expanded to include a pastoralist education centre that teaches Maasai herdsman about holistic range management to help reduce over-grazing on drought-stressed lands.

Dairy cooperatives provide local-level organization and extension services for the multitude of Kenya’s small-scale dairy farmers, and are pushing into the yogurt market to create value for their members. Vegetable growers have come together in a “self-help group” to negotiate growing contracts with local institutions and grocery retailers, and working together on a group plot where they learn new farming techniques.

Driven by a strong spirit of social entrepreneurism, and necessitated by the complete absence of government support, cooperatives may be the best chance for Kenyan farmers to take control of their own destiny and turn farming into a business that can feed their families and their nation.

I would like to thank Agriterra and the IFAJ for the opportunity to participate in the Exposure-4-Development tour. By sharing our stories and creating greater understanding, we can change the world. The E-4-D tour certainly changed mine.