The International Federation of Agriculture Journalists Congress in Belgium is over and life goes on. We’re back in the real world now, back to work, back to our routines.

But I’m feeling a bit heavy-hearted. It’s hard to say good-bye to new friends, a new part of the world and new experiences. The daily pace of bus tours was exhausting, yet many of us thrive in that atmosphere. To be blunt, daily working life is boring after IFAJ (don’t get me wrong, though, I’m still glad to be back home and to see my family).

There seemed to be precious little time to visit with new friends during the congress in Belgium. That didn’t stop us, though. We managed to find time for chats, whether it was on the bus, over an afternoon drink, while wandering through a barn or during late night walks. I’m happy we made the time to do this — thankful I had the chance to get to know more about you, your work and your lives.

We shared stares of amazement and awe at the Belgium Blue cattle, wondered about the ethics of breeding such large, muscular animals. We meandered together though La Floralies, impressed and curious with the floral displays, entertained by the police escort and maybe a bit frustrated with the structure of being herded through the show. We shared toasts from our home countries, challenges to pronounce each other’s last names and countless laughs. In between, we continued to find time to talk about the world of agriculture from our home countries — the stories we tell, the farmers we write about, the challenges they face. I think many of us discovered that no matter where it is around the globe that we call home, where the farmers are that we write about — much of agriculture deals with similar challenges.

This was a unique travel experience highlighted by the eruption of the dormant volcano in Iceland and the resulting grounding of air traffic. Many of us were stranded in a foreign country and, for a short time, had no idea how or when we would get home. The European members worked together to help us figure out alternative travel plans, offered to take us in, drive us to airports, navigate the train system and decipher the language. This touched me deeply. If I had to be stranded, I’m glad it was with colleagues from IFAJ.

I sincerely hope to see each of you again next year at the IFAJ Congress in Canada. I look forward to showing you around my part of the world, renewing friendships, making new ones and sharing more about who we are and the people we write about.

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