After a nomination process by IFAJ guilds around the world, international judges from Alltech and IFAJ declared Denene Erasmus from South Africa as the recipient of the inaugural IFAJ-Alltech International Award for Leadership in Agricultural Journalism.
This award recognizes excellence and leadership, particularly at the guild level, by young journalists (under 40 years of age).
Erasmus is the editor of Farmers Weekly, the largest English language agricultural publication in South Africa. Find out more about her accomplishments below.
Samantha Townsend, a freelance journalist from Australia, was the runner-up for the IFAJ-Alltech International Award for Leadership in Agricultural Journalism. Find out more about her career below.
The award is given to recognize the legacy of the late Dr. Pearse Lyons, the founder of Alltech, who died last year. He was a passionate storyteller who always enjoyed speaking with the media and supported the importance of mentorship and education.
Alltech has long been a major supporter of IFAJ; in particular, Alltech sponsors the young leaders in agricultural journalism program, which supports the participation of 10 young journalists from around the world at the annual IFAJ congress.
The company is now lead by Pearse’s son, Dr. Mark Lyons, who carries on his father’s love of sharing knowledge.
“We are proud to honour the next generation of agricultural journalists, as it is more important than ever to support these young leaders and their futures,” said Dr. Mark Lyons, president and CEO of Alltech.
IFAJ President Owen Roberts accepted the award on Erasmus’s behalf at the Alltech One19 Idea Conference in Lexington, Kentucky.
“IFAJ appreciates Alltech’s deep understanding of the role served by Denene and other agricultural journalists committed to mobilizing knowledge and sharing information with farmers,” he says. “Our organization and Alltech share a commitment to professional development and youth development — and of course, story-telling.”
Erasmus has been an agricultural journalist since 2009 and has won numerous international and national awards for her reporting on the farming and agribusiness sector in Africa; including the Agricultural Writers South Africa/Agri Securitas Agricultural Journalist of the Year award in 2012 and 2014 and the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists/Alltech Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism Award in 2013. In 2016 she was appointed as Editor of the Farmer’s Weekly, becoming the youngest person ever to be appointed in this role. The oldest magazine in South Africa, Farmer’s Weekly focusses on the agriculture and agribusiness sectors in Southern Africa and it is the most widely read English language agricultural publication in the country.
“I came to a career in agricultural journalism by chance. If someone had asked me, prior to when I filed my first article for Farmer’s Weekly in 2009, what type of job I wanted, I am sure that writing about farming would not even have come to mind. Over the past decade, telling the stories of farmers, of how food is produced and distributed across the globe, and of how the agriculture sector is evolving has become my leading passion,” Erasmus said in her submission for the award.
She has held leadership positions in her regional guild including treasurer and vice-chairperson of the Agricultural Writers Western Cape from 2013 to 2015, and vice-chairperson of her national guild, the Agricultural Writers South Africa, from 2014 to 2016.
Her writing covers a broad range of topics related to agriculture, agribusiness, African development, rural development and conservation. She has a special interest in stories that examine how global and regional developments within the agriculture sector affects the sustainability of family-owned farms and farming businesses.
She grew up on a family-run sugar cane farm situated along the east coast of South Africa and while she is now based in Johannesburg, she still visits the farm as often as possible.
A freelance journalist from Australia, Samantha was the runner-up for the inaugural IFAJ-Alltech International Award for Leadership in Agricultural Journalism award. She is a multi-award-winning journalist who has been sharing stories for more than 20 years and is passionate about being a voice for agriculture.
“It’s this passion that drives me to tell a great yarn often about ordinary folk who live extraordinary lives so that people understand what it’s like to live on the land. I tell those stories through words, photographs and videos in traditional and social media,” Townsend said in her submission to the award.
Her extensive experience ranges from reporting for main-stream and agricultural media, newspaper editor, agriculture media consultant and at times can be found behind a camera. Samantha is also secretary on the Australian Council of Agricultural Journalists’ executive committee, as well as being a member of the organising committee for IFAJ 2021 Congress in Australia, “Great Southern Land”. She acts as a mentor to young journalists at Nine (formerly Fairfax) agriculture mastheads and has been a guest speaker at a number of agriculture conferences including LiveEXchange discussing agricultural communications and how they can engage Australia and the world.