Ten young leaders in agricultural journalism joined together to discuss agribusiness issues from around the world and further develop their skills in leadership and agricultural journalism at this year’s International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ) boot camp, sponsored by Alltech.

Representing 10 countries and three continents, recipients of the IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism Award further developed their skills through presentations from agribusiness and academia speakers, interactive group sessions and visits to local dairy farms.

Matthew Smith, Alltech VP of Asia-Pacific, presented “Agribusiness leadership today and tomorrow,” encouraging the delegates to be different and break the mold. “Leaders should not think outside the box; they should get rid of the box altogether,” said Smith.

Smith also stressed that agricultural journalists must travel for a truly international perspective that they can then share with their readers, listeners and viewers, whose livelihood is highly influenced by global activities. “Our industry is global—there are no borders,” he advised, challenging the journalists to think outside of their individual countries and look for the bigger stories.

The young leaders also visited a 350-cow dairy operation in Morrinsville, where owners David and Marlene Harris shared their enthusiasm for dairy farming and discussed their experience growing production on their farm. Ale Vergara, Alltech technical manager in Waikato, highlighted the importance of hoof health for cow comfort and well-being and gave a demonstration on hoof trimming. 

Winners of this year’s IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders Award from North America are Candace Weeda, USA, and Trevor Bacque, Canada.

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Weeda is the associate director of communications at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association in Denver, CO. The grassroots association produces NCBA's Cattlemen to Cattlemen, a weekly television show which is Weeda's main priority. She oversees sponsor relations, script and video production, marketing and promotion. She contributes to print media properties for the association. Weeda graduated from Kansas State University in 2012 with a dual bachelor's degree in agricultural economics and ag communications and journalism. She grew up on a commercial cow/calf operation in southwest Iowa. 

Bacque graduated with distinction from the University of Calgary where he studied communications and journalism. Following his graduation in 2010, Bacque worked as a reporter for two years before moving directly into agriculture as a communications coordinator for the Alberta Barley Commission. He also served as associate editor of Barley Country, the commission’s newspaper. Bacque launched GrainsWest, a first-of-its-kind, farm quarterly co-published by Alberta Barley and the Alberta Wheat Commission.

Other 2015 IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders are Brett Worthington, The Country Hour (Australia); Christian Erin-Madsen, Danish Agricultural and Food Council (Denmark); Andrea Bergman, Landsbygdens Folk (Finland); Ewald Wurzinger, Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (Austria); Doerte Quinckhardt, Landwirtschaftliches Wochenblatt Westfalen-Lippe (Germany); Ben Pike, Ben Pike Communications (United Kingdom); Mary Phelan, Irish Farmers Journal (Ireland) and Camilla Olsson, Land Lantbruk (Sweden).

Candidates were nominated by their respective agricultural journalism guilds. The selection process consisted of a written submission, judges’ impression of the candidates’ leadership potential, their proven leadership abilities and a narrative explaining their interest in the young leaders’ program. More than 100 young journalists have strengthened their skills and expanded their global network through this program, now in its eleventh year.

"As part of its global strategy, IFAJ is taking new measures to unite colleagues from around the world," said Owen Roberts of Canada, IFAJ vice-president. "With Alltech’s help we are mobilizing the agricultural journalism profession, an essential link in the knowledge translation and transfer chain for farmers everywhere.”

The young leaders’ program is held jointly with the IFAJ-DuPont Pioneer Master Class prior to the IFAJ congress.