2018 Young Leaders Class Springs Toward an Exciting Future

The 2018 IFAJ/Alltech Young Leaders—10 journalists age 35 and younger selected by a jury for their professional skills and leadership potential—made the most of the opportunity to hone their skills at a pre-Congress Boot Camp and network at the Dutch Congress that followed. They also made a splash at the IFAJ awards presentation in Wageningen, The Netherlands. There, Maria Daly of the program’s founding sponsor, Alltech, presented each Young Leader with an award from the company and a member of the group, Joseph Gakpo, won a Star Prize for his video reporting on fall armyworm outbreaks in Ghana.

But the biggest impact was during the Boot Camp, where the Young Leaders teamed up with the IFAJ/Corteva Master Class—nine top agricultural journalists from non-member nations—for a two-day professional development and leadership course. Boot Camp activities included presentations on leadership, talks on journalism, group discussions of top agricultural journalism challenges around the world, team projects and farm visits.

Learning Opportunity

Gakpo, a television and radio reporter with Joy News in Accra, Ghana’s capital, said the program provided a great opportunity for learning and networking.

The Young Leaders Program is to date one of the most impactful trainings on agricultural journalism I have had throughout my career,” he noted. “The knowledge acquired, including precision reporting and how to make agriculture more exciting to the audience, as well as team building skills and the networks created, have boosted my career since I returned to work and I will continue to rely on them in my job as a journalist. It’s a career-changing training.”

Ashley Robinson of Glacier Farm Media in Manitoba enjoyed the opportunity to compare experiences with colleagues who, like her, are in the early phases of their career.

It was so cool to be able to connect with like-minded people around my age from around the world,” she said. “Talking with them gave me a better understanding of what is happening globally for journalism and agriculture. It was both heartening and disheartening to find out we face a lot of the same problems around the world. However I felt that when I came back to Canada I had more of an idea of what I can do to address those issues based on the conversations I had at the Boot Camp.

“It was very enlightening and uplifting to talk with my fellow young leaders and those in the Master Class,” Robinson noted. “I came out of the week feeling very upbeat and positive about agriculture and journalism.”

Inspiration Works Both Ways

Several participants in the Boot Camp said they were inspired by a presentation in which Alltech vice president Matthew Smith outlined disruptive technologies in agriculture and challenged the group to travel in search of the vision of agriculture that exists in different countries.

But even as they were being inspired, the group had the same effect on the program’s organizers. Maria Daly, Alltech’s communications manager for Europe, said her days with the Young Leaders and Master Class Boot Camp were invigorating.

“It was so inspiring to meet the Young Leader and Master Class journalists in the Netherlands,” she said. “It is clear that they are all passionate about agriculture in their country, and reporting news and events which will educate farmers and all those involved in the supply chain. Alltech is part of the IFAJ/Alltech Young Leader programme because we share this passion. We are proud to support such a successful programme and look forward to see how these communicators cultivate their passion of storytelling.”

2018 IFAJ/Alltech Young Leaders

Over the past decade, the IFAJ/Alltech Young Leaders program has honored outstanding young ag journalists from IFAJ member guilds. In recent years, the program has grown to encompass a leadership training component, in which the Young Leaders participate with the IFAJ/Corteva Master Class in a two-day Boot Camp.

The goal of the program is not only to honor outstanding young professionals, but to encourage and equip them to become leaders in their guilds. Several members of the IFAJ Executive and dozens of active guild leaders are alumni of the Young Leaders program.

This year’s IFAJ/Alltech Young Leaders are:

  • Hannes Baumgartner, Der Landwirt, Austria
  • Marike Brits, Plaas Media, South Africa
  • Lydia Burton, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation
  • Dagmar Deutsch, Agrarheute, Germany
  • Joseph Gakpo, Multimedia Group, Ltd., Ghana
  • Katie Knapp, The Ag Photographer, USA
  • Oonagh O’Mahony, IFP Media, Republic of Ireland
  • Ashley Robinson, Commodity News Service Canada
  • Tuulikki Viilo, Maaseudun Tulevaisuus, Finland
  • Rasmus Bue Willesen, Landbrugsmedierne, Denmark
The 2018 IFAJ/Alltech Young Leaders (back row, from left): Hugh Maynard, IFAJ global executive; Joseph Gakpo; Matthew Smith, Alltech; Dagmar Deutsch; Marike Brits; Tuulikki Viilo; Hannes Baumgartner. (Front row, from left): Katie Knapp, Lydia Burton, Ashley Robinson; Oonagh O'Mahony; Jessie Scott (a 2017 Young Leader helping organize this year's program).
Matthew Smith of Alltech discusses disruptive technologies in agriculture.
Members of the IFAJ/Alltech Young Leaders and IFAJ/Corteva Master Class photograph Dutch farmer Gert Jan van Dongen during a Boot Camp farm visit prior to the 2018 Congress.