By Alberto Ruiz
Mexican Guild of Agricultural Journalists (AMEXMA)
GUADALAJARA, Jalisco, Mexico—Just before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, the Mexican Guild of Agricultural Journalists (AMEXMA), one of IFAJ’s newest members, hosted then-president Owen Roberts for an extensive introduction to the guild and to Mexican agriculture.
His visit included meetings with Mexican farmers as well as agriculture, business and education officials along with a tour of the agriculturally vital Jalisco district where many of the country’s winter fruit and vegetables are grown, and where tequila is produced.
Among the topics under discussion was the development of an IFAJ-affiliated North American agricultural journalists’ and communicators’ network, the creation of an on-line learning resource for members, and how the Mexican guild can help unite Spanish-speaking agricultural journalists in the IFAJ network.
One of the key meetings during the visit involved an audience with Mexico’s secretary of agriculture, Alberto Esquer Gutierrez. The Secretary highlighted the importance of IFAJ and AMEXMA members helping to increase the knowledge of the agricultural sector, calling agricultural journalism “an essential part of development.” He also invited agricultural journalists to convene in Jalisco when it was possible to do so.
Another important meeting was chaired by Dr. Antonio Leaño Reyes, president of the modern and progressive Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara. The university, which opened its doors 85 years ago and now boasts 130,000 alumni, is the leader in agricultural ecosystem research in the western region of México. It’s the country’s first private university, and emphasizes outreach and business development. Roberts and others visited the university’s food products development laboratory where young entrepeneurs have developed new products such as organic coffee, organic chips and natural beverages, among others.
Field trips arranged by the Mexican guild included berry production development with Gerardo García Menaut strawberry producer at Ojo Zarco farm in Tapalpa, and with the president of the Mexican National Association of Berry Producers Aldo Mares on his farm Green Gold, as well as Driscoll’s collection centre in Cd. Gúzman.
Other stops included a tour of Ignacio Gónzalez’s avocado packing plant Zapotlan, one of the biggest exporters to Europe, Canada, and Asia, high tech blueberry production with Sarin Ramírez at Bloom Farms, and lunch with Herradura tequila company owner Don Guillermo Romo, whose family has been involved in production since 1870.
In a formal meeting with the Mexican guild, Roberts underlined that it’s clear agriculture is vital to Mexico’s economy, for feeding its own citizens and for exports. Reporting on such a vast, diverse and worldwide sector, he said, “requires global vision from agricultural journalists, and those are the kinds of connections IFAJ provides.”
Roberts urged guild members to reach out to members in other guilds, for contacts and story ideas. “There is a hunger for knowledge about food production internationally, and we as agricultural journalists can help meet people’s needs,” he said.
The Mexican guild members discussed matters such as working with agri-business to sponsor events, but noted the importance of remaining at arm’s length to ensure objectivity.
The journalists discussed the idea of Mexico, Canada and the USA coming together to form a network that shares common interests, such as reporting on the USMCA trade deal. Roberts and Mexican guild president Andres Canales discussed an Inter-America Agricultural Journalism Forum, where journalists mainly from Canada, US and Mexico (and from other countries, if interested) would meet in Jalisco to discuss the trade agreement between the three countries, and its implications on agriculture and food production and its economic impact worldwide.
The Mexican guild also expressed interest in hosting an IFAJ congress at some point in Guadalajara, likely based at the Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara which has thrown its full support behind AMEXMA.
The university, which has an active online learning component, is eager to help IFAJ develop its fledgling plans for an online agricultural journalism initiative. Such a certificate is thought to be more important than ever, as food insecurity sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic looms and journalists everywhere take a new interest in the global food supply.
Attendees at the Mexican guild meeting included Juan Francisco González, Agrosíntesis Magazine (deputy president of AMEXMA); Hugo Rangel Guzmán, Grupo Agro21 Newspaper; Alberto Ruiz Fernández (Secretary of AMEXMA); Jorge Alberto Morales Rincón from AME; David Izazaga Márquez, TecnoAgave Magazine; Hiram Ibarra, Agroamigo Magazine; Yair Antonio López, Treembo Platform; Miguel Yañez, Jalisco Cattle Association Journal; Juan Felipe González, Enlace Agropecuario Magazine; Héctor Castellanos, InocuoTV; Katya Médina, Amado Vázquez Mtz., Carlos Mairena and Raúl Torres Lugo, Tierra Fértil Magazine and freelance journalists Hugo F. Castellanos and Carlo Romero.
AMEXMA president Canales said he was pleased to connect with IFAJ in this way.
“The agricultural journalists and the directors of agricultural media of the Mexican guild considered this visit by the IFAJ president an important show of support, as we focus on professionalism and on becoming part of the most important network in the world dedicated to agricultural journalism,” he said.
For a more in-depth look at fruit production in the Jalisco region check Owen’s column in The Grower, Canada’s leading fruit and vegetable publication: