IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders Award

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….the winners of the Young Leader Awards 2012…..

From the left:

Stefan Nimmervoll, Blick ins Land, Austria.

Lindi van Rooyen, Farmer’s Weekly, South Africa.

Nikolai Beilharz, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Rural Department, Australia.

Christy Couch Lee, the owner of Cee Lee Communications, USA.

Mercedes Manfroni, La Nación, Argentina.

Aly Balsom, Farmers Weekly, UK.

Holly Spangler, Prairie Farmer magazine, USA.

Julia Davids, dlv Deutscher Landwirtschaftsverlag GmbH, Germany.

Ciara O’Kelly, Irish Country Living within the Irish Farmers Journal, Ireland.

Jerica Potočnik, Zelena dežela magazine, Slovenia.

Alexis Kienlen, Alberta Farmer, Canada.


In the picture is also Patrick Charlton and Katie Gehrt, Alltech, Magnus Stark, KSLA and Anna Nilsson, Boot Camp Coordinator.


Agricultural trends in Slovenia


Trends in ag journalism

  • In Slovenia there are some specialized media who report only on agriculture. For these media work agricultural experts. On agriculture report also other media, such as the daily news media, weekly and monthly newspapers. For these media usually work journalists, who are specialized in agriculture.
  • Agricultural media are vulnerable to economic pressures. Political pressures on such media are less common. Slovenia’s economy has been hit hard by the global crisis. This crisis has also affected the media. In the past two years many journalists lost their jobs. 
  •   The problem in Slovenia is also the status of journalists. Most of the journalists don’t have a permanent job. The number of contractors and freelances is quite high. Many of them are not payed regulary. They have difficulties in getting loans, so they can not buy a flat and so on.

Specificity of Slovenia

The average age of the managers of family farms is 57 years and has not changed since 2000. More than 43% of them have only elementary education. Most of these farmers do not use Internet. They get information from newspapers and television. Most of the agricultural media are not online. Recently there have been some websites created with agricultural news. But these media don’t have their own journalists. These media only collect news from other media.

Agricultural topics

In Slovenia it is very popular to talk about self-care and food safety. Politics and general public discuss these topics. Many articles have been published on these topics. Journalists write about the drought that has severely affected Slovenia. Most discussed topics are also higher food prices and Common Agricultural Policy.

Jerica Potočnik,


Final of Boot Camp and Master Class

Here we are – 21 agricultural journalists from 19 countries graduated from the Master Class and Young Leaders Boot Camp in Sweden 2012!

In the picture is also coordinators from IFAJ and Agriterra, hosts from KSLA and sponsors.

Ethics in journalism

Should a publication run advertorials? Is it wrong to accept travel compensation to cover a company’s event?

During our discussion on ethics in journalism led by Owen Roberts, held Monday morning, Aug. 13, these and many other questions were discussed and debated by IFAJ Boot Camp and Master Class participants.

Owen Roberts, IFAJ, says a triad exists in ethical journalism between the publisher, the advertiser and the reader/listener/viewer.

“If the ethics of any participant are off, we have a problem,” he says.

However, he says, when ethics are met between all parties, everyone benefits.

“If the publication has credibility, it’s better for the publisher, as it will be considered honest and ethical,” Roberts says. “It’s also better for advertisers, because they are advertising in a publication considered to be of high standards. And it’s better for the reader, because the reader is served with better information.”

Relevant ethical issues varied greatly by participants, based on their home countries.

And, for some participants, including Mendy Sang from Gambia, the topic of ethics is just developing.

“We are just creating an agricultural writing guild in Gambia,” he says. “In Gambia, we are not opportune to have journalism schools. Most people don’t know what works well. Some companies will invite writers to cover events. When they write the stories, they are given some money, and that money is worth our monthly payments.  We earn very little as journalists. Sometimes, I question if these writers are simply writing for the money. As time goes on, we must look at ethical values in our members.”

Following ethical standards can have potentially challenging effects on journalists, as well, says Kakoma Kaleyi Calvin, Zambia.

“We were invited to cover climate change in Mexico, and the trip was sponsored partly by the government,” he says. “I covered it exactly as I perceived it. And when the publication printed, the government was not happy. During the next event, every journalist was invited except for me, so my institution covered the expenses and I went. At the end of the day, I provided the right message.”

The topic of publications “borrowing” stories – sometimes without the writer’s or publication’s consent  – is viewed differently, depending on the person and circumstances. Holly Spangler, USA, says sometimes this can be negative for a publication or writer.

“I had written a blog, and one of the American commodity groups picked it up on their blog about six weeks after I wrote it,” she says. “They copied and pasted the writing to their blog, not understanding it wasn’t appropriate. This did not allow the reader to come to our page and get the ‘hits,’ which can benefit our publication. Our content is our product. If it is taken, that is illegal.”

However, Stefan Nimmervoll, Austria, says this practice can be a positive experience for a smaller publication.

“I once had a larger national paper refer to my article, and I thought it was great,” he says. “It provided a little more exposure.”

And for some writers, the reprint of material is the goal, says Nelly Romero Jara, Ecuador.

“We have a group of independent journalists who work for radio stations and publish bits of audio on a green economy, and food safety and security,” she says. “They want these items to be downloaded. They want their message to be heard, to counterweight large media who gets subsidies from companies that produce agricultural chemicals.”

Regardless of nationality or experience, one idea rang true to all: developing and following journalistic ethics is critical, in order to preserve the integrity of the industry.

Mendy Sang, Gambia.

Christy Couch Lee, USA.

The content of sausages and CAP – two things people don’t know

“There are two Things people don’t want to know: The content of their Sausage and the content of the CAP.”

This was the central phrase of Gunilla Ander’s presentation “How to become international agricultural Journalist” for the Boot Camp participants. Gunilla works as an agricultural journalist for Land Lantbruk, the Swedish Farmers Federation’s Magazine. How does she manage writing about CAP and WTO in a way readers are interested in and understand? For her way she got an Award, the Star Prize. She travelled around the world and asked Farmers in New Zealand or Mali what they think about the CAP and Europe. So she got a different view on that topic. Swedish farmers are always interested in stories from abroad. So she found a good and very individual way for her messages.

 Jule Davids, Germany.

Jerica Potocnik, Slovenia.

Grow your own journalistic brand

Professional developement was the topic of the lesson we had together with the food blogger Peter Streijffert. We already got to know him yesterday. Peter told us how he invented and built up his own brand as a food and wine specialist and became a book writer and well known expert. „I am a brand“, Peter told us.

While being a journalist, the platform had been his safety – now he relies on his name. He was forced to find his own way, when his company had put him on an unsatisfying position. „Many doors closed, but some opened“, Peter said. He encouraged us to dare to have plans and to make them real.

Visit Peter´s blog, a duel with fast food from the company Findus and Peter himself : Peter vs Findus


Agricultural trends in Austria: subsidies – the strong topics

Austria is small in many ways: First of all, it is a small country, where the number of agricultural magazines und newspapers is not very high. Therefore the number of specialized journalists for agriculture is not very high. So you soon get to know everybody who is important in ag journalism. Once again the number of politicians in the scene is also overviewable. Little journalists, not too much politicians. That means: We know eachother. That is both positive and negative. You get quite near to where things get decided and the network works very well. On the other hand that „sworn community“ sometimes makes it difficult to critizise thing in a proper way, because many oft he decision makers somehow get friends, because you always work with them. How modern journalism in general should react on that fact is heavily discussed in Austrian society and naturally also effects agricultural journalism.

More than that most of the ag-magazines are linked to political parties or farmer associations. For them it is difficult to critizise the „official“ wording of how things are presented. So for many  years that fact has filteres information. Only in the last few years journalists have become more ambitious in looking behind the scenes.

Agriculture and its subidies have been the strong topics in the last few years. As I said in the beginning Austria is small and so are the farms. Thats why many of then can only exist because of the money they get from the European Union and the state. Some parts of society seem to be quite envious on that and want to cut the money down. On the other hand people want farmers to produce biological, GMO-free and „near to the nature“. They want familiy owned farms – as we have in Austria – but they want the state to spend less money on it.

The big topic for small scale farmers is how to survive in times of competition with big agricultural companies all over the world. Most of them think that it is just unfair to sell products at world market prices, when they cannot produce in world market conditions. In that case farm journalist are getting more and more important: They show the farmers how their collueges all around the world work and point out ways of improving profatibilty on the farms. On the other hand, we try to tell them that their way of farming is not out of style and that there are and most be chances to keep the system of small scale farming up.

Even more important than to explain developements within our sector, is to take influence on the consumer. Agricultural journalism has somehow become the lawyer of Austrian farmers. We never stop explaining why Austrian products are more expensive than imported farm-industry products and why people should be patriots in buying home grown products.

Stefan Nimmervoll,


Agricultural journalism is important for food security

Once an obscure subject to report on, agriculture is finding itself at the fore as fears of food insecurity grow and food price inflation sky rockets.

Besides more main stream publications dedicating space to the subject, agricultural publications are showing growth in a market where print media is declining. This is good news for farmers and consumer alike as growing awareness leads to a greater product.

Argentinean consumers have shown an increase in agricultural interest following heightened exposure to the subject after politicians and farmers clashed. The greater focus by journalists and consumers has meant that corruption was being exposed within the sector. The importance of farming is also highlighted, leading to a bigger acceptance of the sector and what it means for a country.

Media has been the most important tool used in fostering the development of agriculture globally, and there is a need of putting strategies together to overcome challenges to use media effectively.

 Agriculture as a subject in the media can only increase in the future as more attention is placed on what we eat and where it comes from. The role that journalists play therefore becomes more important as we need to ensure that the right message gets to the consumers. A message without bias and factual inaccuracies will ensure a more sustainable sector that is guided by a rational, unemotional public.

Susuma Msikula, Tanzania.

Lindi van Rooyen, South Africa. 

Is GMO the answer to increasing global populations?

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With the global population expected to increase from the current 7 billion to about 9 billion by 2050, there is pressure to increase food production.

The ethics surrounding expanding global population and the role of GMO have been up for debate this afternoon among those involved in the IFAJ boot camp and masterclass.

Experience from the USA has shown maize yields can be significantly increased through using genetic modification, yet European and African consumers are anti-GMO.

The reasoning for rejecting GMO food is based on secondary effects the products could have on people’s health, coupled with shopper’s requirements for naturally produced foods.

Zambia’s position on genetically modified food has been zero tolerance with farmers leading the argument stating that they are able to produce enough for the country and indeed for export without GMOs. on the other hand African countries such Burkina Faso have started trials of genetically modified cotton production.

There is no doubt the needs of an expanding population need to be met some how, but it is questionable as to the future role genetic modifcation may take. The question is, in a world where people are going hungry, can we afford not to use GMOs?