By Mike Wilson, Farm Progress Co.
Many winners of AAEA’s Andy Markwart Horizon Award never had a chance to meet the man this prestigious honor is named after. That’s a shame, because anyone who knew Andy loved him and his outlook on life.
Andy and I were good friends, work colleagues, fellow musicians and golfing buddies for many years before 2006, when Sudden Cardiac Arrest took him from us at age 43. This condition claims a life in the U.S. every 90 seconds and is responsible for more deaths per year than breast cancer. Most victims never see it coming. We sure didn’t.
Andy was a great editor, writer and photographer, but he was beloved for his character. He was quick with a joke and was eager to help everyone around him feel at ease, engaged and needed. He was the good-natured, fun guy who people gravitated toward at social gatherings. Yes, we still miss him.
Andy was editor of the John Deere Furrow and Homestead magazines when he passed. To honor him and his many years of contributions to AAEA and the profession, John Deere established the Andy Markwart Horizon Award so that his legacy would continue for the benefit of young AAEA members for years to come.
Winners of the Andy Markwart Horizon award embody the youthful vigor, energy, passion, dedication and creativity shown by Andy in his volunteer work for AAEA for many years. Winners are 35 years old or younger. We circled back to them to find out how this honor impacted their careers.
2012: Jennifer Shike, Director for Communications and Marketing, College of ACES, University of Illinois
Receiving the Andy Markwart Award was a tremendous honor. Although I did not know Andy personally, I know many of his friends and former colleagues who have shared stories and examples of Andy’s leadership style and his desire to help others.
I am grateful for leaders like Andy who saw the importance of developing the next generation of agricultural communicators and went out of their way to make sure it happened. As a former ACT member and current ACT advisor, I know how valuable networking and relationship building is to connect great young people to future career opportunities.
To continue Andy’s legacy, I used the award money to help one of my ACT students, Kendall Herren, attend the Agricultural Media Summit. Kendall and I had a very positive experience participating in educational sessions, networking, and developing connections to some of our industry’s finest. I always benefit personally by attending AMS, but I am beyond grateful that I received this award and could help Kendall grow as an agricultural communicator, too.
2013: Christy Couch Lee, Freelancer Writer/Photographer, AAEA President-Elect
I was honored to win the Andy Markwart award in 2013, and it helped to offset the costs of attending the 2014 IFAJ in Scotland. This experience helped to expand my agricultural communications network worldwide and offered a glimpse of agriculture in a much different setting than I see each day in the States. I still look to that experience as one of the most rewarding of my time in this industry. Being a freelancer, I don’t often have the budget to travel worldwide. I was ever so grateful for the assistance in making this happen.
As well, I had the privilege of working with Andy during my time as managing editor of Homestead magazine at John Deere. To know the character of this man — his work ethic, his devotion to his family, and his incredible talent — it meant even more to carry home the award bearing his name. He truly was one of a kind. And anyone who receives this award can be proud to play a small part in carrying on his legacy.
2014: Kacey Birchmier, Agronomy/Conservation Editor, Successful Farming
I have been the Agronomy and Conservation Editor at Successful Farming for the past five years. I’ve made great connections through AAEA and enjoyed the professional development opportunities the organization provides. When I won the 2014 Andy Markwart Horizon Award I was both honored and humbled.
I used the accompanying stipend to attend the 2015 IFAJ Congress in New Zealand. The IFAJ trip allowed me to step outside of my normal coverage area and learn about international agriculture while I met ag journalist from all over the world. This award opened doors for new opportunities I don’t believe I would have otherwise been able to experience so early in my career. Attending congress allowed me to expand my professional network and reminded me of the importance to view agriculture through a world lens. I will never forget the honor of winning the Andy Markwart Horizon Award and I will always value the opportunities given to me because of it.
2015: Josh Flint, Associate Director of Communications, The Maschhoffs
Soon after winning the Andy Markwart award, I shifted from an editorial role to a PR role. Having spent approximately 10 years in an editorial role, I needed a significant amount of training. With this award, I was able to gain training around the core elements of public relations.
When I won the award, I was extremely honored. The folks who have won this award are well respected within the industry. I am also honored to represent Andy’s memory. Each day, I aspire to make an impact within the ag communications industry. This award is a consistent reminder to passionately pursue my goal of being impactful, because no one knows exactly how long he/she has on this earth.
2016: Ryan Ebert, Art Director, Hoard’s Dairyman
In 2016, I experienced the proudest moment of my career thus far as I was humbled to receive the Andy Markwart Horizon Award. While I joined AAEA shortly after Andy’s passing and didn’t know him personally, I do know he was an integral member of AAEA. I’m honored to know that my peers feel I embody the same youthful vigor, energy, passion, dedication and creativity shown by Andy.
This award and associated stipend will open new doors for me. My plans are to use it to attend an IFAJ meeting to explore the international ag world. I would encourage anyone thinking about applying for the award to do so. AAEA has so much to offer, it’s up to you to go after it.
2017: Jessie Scott, Digital Content Manager, Successful Farming
I will be using the Andy Markwart Horizon award to attend the 2018 IFAJ Congress in the Netherlands. This will be my third Congress, and I’m incredibly excited for this outstanding opportunity to learn about agriculture in another part of the world and meet other passionate ag journalists.
I was shocked, humbled, and honored to receive the award. I look forward to continuing Andy’s legacy of passionate and enthusiastic ag journalism.
This award is a great way to be recognized both by coworkers and across the industry. I highly recommend that all young journalists apply for this award.
The award winner receives a $2,500 stipend, which can be used to attend the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ) annual Congress, the Agricultural Media Summit or other professional development class, seminar or workshop. Go to this link for complete application information. Applications are open to any AAEA member age 35 or younger. Please submit:
–Two professional references (one from current employer).
— Essay: 500 words or fewer describing your interest in receiving the stipend and why you believe you are deserving, your current and past AAEA involvement, and your professional goals.
Send applications by June 1, 2018, mailed or emailed in a single pdf file to: Kelly Schwalbe, PIF Chair, Sage Communications, 1525 Locust Street, Kansas City, MO 64108, email@example.com.