Ag journalism leaders discuss opportunities to advance the agriculture industry

Farm Forum

BONN, Germany – Nine young leaders from across the globe gathered in Bonn, Germany, for the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ)–Alltech Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism boot camp. The nine bright minds learned lessons in leadership and professional development in order to advance the agriculture industry. The two-day boot camp, led by Owen Roberts, journalist, columnist, and adjunct professor in the Department of Animal Biosciences and the research communications director at the University of Guelph, heard from Patrick Charlton, Alltech vice president and CEO of Coppens International, Steve Werblow, writer for The Furrow agriculture journal, and Hugh Maynard, global manager of the IFAJ.

Sarah Hill, a freelance journalist from Brookings, South Dakota, USA, and Julienne Isaacs, a freelance writer based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada took part in the 2016 IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism boot camp event.

The boot camp challenged the participants to ask questions on the future of the agriculture industry. Is it sustainable? What opportunities lie ahead? How can farmers address consumer wants and needs? How can agriculture journalists educate the producer, consumer and policy maker to ensure we can continue to feed the ever-growing population?

“It’s vital for journalists to connect the dots; agriculture is a global industry, there are no borders,” said Charlton. “By anticipating the markets and searching for the latest innovations and technologies, journalists can advance the agriculture industry.”

Charlton discussed the opportunities that lie ahead in sustainability, technology and innovation. Addressing the young leaders, he provided three tips on getting ahead:

Be different: In the world of agriculture, there is an abundance of opportunity; write about something different.

Anticipate the markets and deliver rapidly: What is the next big story? With technology and social media, it’s now easier to source information at the click of a button.

Understand your audience: What does your audience really want to hear? Talk to farmers, producers and consumers, and identify future trends.

Raising his concerns, Charlton noted the importance of connecting our food to the farmer.

“In order to ensure the agriculture industry is not left behind, journalists must connect the farmer to our food,” he said.

“Food is everywhere we look; there are many celebrity chefs promoting great produce, but not many of them are connecting produce to the farmer,” continued Charlton. “Nowadays, the consumer has become so far removed from the processing element that they no longer understand where food comes from.”

Werblow discussed leadership in journalism and shared steps that journalists must take to ensure agriculture remains at the forefront of people’s minds.

“Don’t just accept the press release; guide your editor based on your insight,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to lead, find the sources, address the issues in the industry, and build expertise and report accurately.

“Agriculture is business, is economics and is politics,” continued Werblow. “The world’s farmers and producers depend upon us to report timely, accurate information so we can advance the industry.”

The boot camp wrapped up with two local dairy farm visits in Denklingen and Swisttal. Here, the journalists heard about the constant fluctuation of milk prices in Germany, the effects of the Russian ban on imported dairy and beef produce, and expansion opportunities in the dairy industry.

The IFAJ–Alltech Young Leaders in Agriculture Journalism 2016 boot camp took place in advance of the IFAJ 60th annual congress in Bonn, Germany.