By Kenna Rathai, IFAJ 2018 stipend recipient and IFAJ 2019 program committee chair
Hello, bonjour, hej, goededag, terve, guten tag, gamarjoba, dia dhuit, ciao, konnichiwa, salut, privet, pozdrafljeni, habari, Sali, vitayu!
Many of this year’s AAEA: Ag Communicators Network attendees of the IFAJ Congress in the Netherlands will describe the issue sessions they sat in on, the farms they visited, the growers they met.
I want to tell you about some of the people you may meet next year when we host the IFAJ Congress in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. Some of our sessions and tours will overlap and you’ll get the special privilege of connecting with ag communicators from around the world. Some are regulars at these Congresses, some were newbies. I asked them about their favorite moments of the Congress, and the ag issues their countries are facing (spoiler alert: they are not so different than any of us).
Now, let’s meet a few of the global attendees.
Anna Kujala, Finland
Anna is a freelance journalist working with a Swedish-language farmers journal in Finland. Because the publication is so small, she covers everything from politics to production and everything in between. She appreciates the Congress because she sees things she wouldn’t normally get to see in interesting countries. She loved seeing how cheese was processed, and she especially was interested in our tour of the Royal FloraHolland auction market, because Finland buys flower bulbs from the Netherlands. She loves meeting people from all over the world, and knows it opens doors for her.
Gordon Collie, Australia
Australia is hosting the 2021 Congress and Gordon and the 15 other Australians attending this year’s Congress were proud to promote it – we plan to see a lot of them in Minnesota next year too. Gordon is the treasurer for the Australian Council of Agricultural Journalists, which is their guild (a guild is what they call each country’s “chapter,” like our AAEA). He is a freelance writer and works with both publications and PR/corporate clients. The top issues facing Australian agriculture in his opinion are politics and climate variations such as drought.
Markus Rediger, Switzerland
I connected with two attendees whose job it is to communicate to the consumer about agriculture, Markus is one of them (he’s also a former IFAJ president and former ag journalist). He works for LID, a news agency whose goal is to inform the public about food and agriculture, mostly through mainstream journalists and schools. He says there is a big knowledge gap and it’s widening. His group also helps farmers better tell their stories. When he saw my University of Illinois shirt, we talked about when he visited Dr. Jim Evans (I was there at the time but don’t remember meeting him!), and that Dr. Evans invited him to the first Ag Media Summit, 20 years ago.
Kelly Daynard, Canada
Kelly is the other consumer-communicator I talked with. While on the trip, she celebrated her 1-year work anniversary as executive director for Farm & Food Care in Ontario. It’s a consumer-facing organization that helps answer the question – where does my food come from? She is a former ag journalist turned ag communicator and also stresses that there is a big disconnect between our ag roots and mainstream consumers. This was her 11th Congress in a row (including handling the registration when Canada hosted in 2011), you can plan to see her friendly face in Minnesota next year.
Mirela Scarlat, Romania
Mirela runs her own PR/marketing agency. It was her first Congress and she mentioned how interested she was to experience different perspectives of how food and farming will look like in the future.
Below are several other issues and challenges that were brought up by some of the growers and corporate spokespeople we met with. Sound familiar?
- Soil disruption and compaction
- Temporary immigrant labor from Bulgaria and Poland (because Dutch kids don’t want to do the work)
- Diversifying to keep labor year-round for a 3-month high season
- Quality control practices
- Government and environmental regulations
- Consumer marketing
- Safe and secure water
- Technology to improve efficiency
If you haven’t yet, let us know if you’re interested in helping with the 2019 IFAJ Congress in the United States – a lot of volunteers make the workload light! Email co-chair Kurt Lawton at email@example.com.