Atlantic Canada Farm Writers Annual Tour & AGM

ACFWA is approaching its second birthday! And indeed, where has the time gone?

Fredericton-area member Kim Waalderbos has put together an awesome day and a half tour for the Fredericton area. Apples, dairy, potatoes, local food, ice cream — we’re covered for a great tour and great learning.

ACFWA members are journalists, communicators, broadcasters and government relations professionals associated with the agricultural sector in Atlantic Canada. We’re the folks who write about farming, communicate about farming and have the best interests of the farming community at heart when we go to work each day. ACFWA is associated with the Canadian Farm Writers’ Federation and the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists, so membership at the local level includes membership at the national and international levels.

The tour is next week, Thursday, June 14 and Friday, June 15. Registration, costs and other details are below. If you need a hotel room, email me at and I’ll send you our conference details.

Hope to see you in Fredericton, N.B. next week!


Thursday, June 14

9:30 a.m. Everetts Apples – The farm is a 200+ apple farm. A cool succession story as the younger generation is now exploring new technologies and growing ideas. They family operates a popular U-pick. They also have the most amazing views of the river and valley area.
10:30 a.m. Travel to next stop
11:00 a.m. Scotch Lake Dairy  – Richard and Carol Boonstoppel: this couple branched away from his brothers   and the family dairy farm 15 years ago to strike out on their own. They bought a vacant dairy farm, set it up and have built the herd to milk around 70 cows today. What makes them special is they installed a Lely robotic   milking machine to milk their cows a year ago. Now they can run the herd with   just the two of them (well, and their five younger kids). Richard is also the chair of the Fredericton Dairy Management Group.
12:00 p.m. Travel and lunch (make sure to bring along a bit of money. Our lunch stop will be at a dairy bar and candy store. We’ll provide the sandwich, you provide dessert!)
1:30 p.m. Coburn’s – These folks are in Keswick Ridge. They have really cool story of how they made a   complete loop by integrating the different aspects of their farm. They have   computerized feed mill to make the feed for their 25,000 laying hens which provide bedding material for an in-vessel composting system — that also sources waste material from the farm’s on-site cider press, which is fed by their 10-acre apple orchard. Oh, and the family has put together a neat ag museum of sorts in the upstairs of the cider facility.
3:00 p.m. Travel
3:30 p.m. Real Food Connections – Real Food Connections believes that food should be seen as a   whole, not just the sum of its parts. It’s about food being enjoyable and not merely for fueling ourselves with the right combination of nutrients for peak performance. It’s about knowing what we eat, and not turning a blind eye to   the list of ingredients we can’t pronounce. It’s about learning where our   food comes from and how it’s grown. At Real Food Connections, they work to   make local quality food accessible to the general public. They’re also a resource for local food education.
4:30 p.m. Return to hotel
5:00 p.m. Depart for supper
5:30 p.m. Supper

Friday, June 15

7:30 a.m. ACFWA Annual Meeting – General business and election of officers
8:30 a.m. Potato Research Station – We’ll explore some of the latest potato research and see what technologies will be available just around the corner.
10:00 a.m. Travel to next stop
10:30 a.m. Scott’s Nursery has the largest selection of plant material east of Montreal. The nursery is a huge stopping point for plant buffs from all over. A very family-oriented operation. Mr. Scott himself just won the ‘hospitality’ award at this year’s Agricultural Alliance of NB annual meeting for all the great things he does to promote agriculture to visitors.
12:00 p.m. Homeward bound

Cost: Register for the tour + one year ACFWA membership: $50. Details on membership benefits and a member registration form are here:

Register for the tour only: $20

Travel during the tour: In an effort to keep costs down, we’re going to be car pooling during our visits. Our starting point each day will be the AGM hotel: Lakeview Inn and Suites located at 665 Prospect Street in Fredericton.

Pre-registration is required for catering purposes

To register for the ACFWA Car Tour on June 14 and 15, please send the following information to, Trudy Kelly Forsythe at

  • Name:
  • Cell phone number (to be used only if we need to reach you during the tour):
  • Are you able to be one of our drivers?
  • How many people can you transport in your vehicle?
  • The registration fee is payable at the time of the event.


A bit of Swenska före kongressen (Swedish before congress)


Cheat sheet No. 1

In anticipation of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists’ 2012 congress in Stockholm, Sweden in August, we had a chance to chat with our Swedish colleague Magnus Stark and learn a few key Swedish words and phrases. I haven’t included all of the phrases Magnus taught — some of them you’ll have to figure out on your own.

Vad heter du? — What is your name?
Jag heter Allison — My name is Allison
Tack — Thanks
Tack så mycke — Thank you very much
Snälla – Please
Jag dricker öl – I drink beer
Skål – Cheers

The early bird registration deadline for IFAJ 2012 in Sweden has been extended to March 31, so there’s still time to register and take advantage of the reduced rates. Details are at the congress website, Registration remains open for the pre-congress tour of Finland and the post-congress tour of the Island of Gotland, Sweden.

Cheat Sheet No. 2


Registration opens for IFAJ 2012 Congress in Sweden

photo courtesy of the Image Bank of Sweden

Registration for the IFAJ 2012 Congress, Aug. 15-19, opened Feb. 10.

The early registration runs until March 10. There is a registration cap of 200 people, so early registration is encouraged. The cost is approximately 800 euro. Full details are at the congress website.

The arrival day, Aug. 15, features an early evening professional development session, followed by a welcome dinner. Further professional development sessions discussing the congress theme, Solutions for a Green Future, will be held on Aug. 16, as well as the IFAJ delegate assembly. All delegates will then leave for a farm visit and barbecue at the world headquarters of DeLaval.

photo courtesy of DeLaval

The second and third days will send us out on one of the eight farm tours. Each tour is a day trip and the buses will return to the host hotel each evening.

Tour 1: Follow the tree trunks from the forest to finished building material and meet two dairy farmers.

Tour 2: Learn how forest seedlings are protected from a pest, experience moose and see the latest techniques for processing tree tops and branches for energy use. Also, meet dairy farmers who market their milk locally.

Tour 3: Meet a farmer who saves money and the environment by using tiling equipment made in Sweden. Get into the fight over wild boar.

Tour 4: Cook with the minister of agriculture, discuss strict animal welfare rules, visit an organic pig farm and conventional crop farm.

Tour 5: Discuss the best way of selling grain with environmentally conscious farmers. Visit a power plant that uses crops to make energy and learn about breeding Swedish dairy cattle.

Tour 6: Visit the one of the country’s largest publishing companies, owned by Swedish farmers. Hear the str4ategy of a large scale horse breeder, a producer of fresh herbs and a successful sheep farmer. Visit combined sheep, vegetable and tourism farm.

Tour 7: Experience farming in the archipelago. Learn how the sensitive environment is protected and see sheep and cows graze on islands.

Tour 8: Take a unique chance to see exclusive and very modern dairy farming. Meet cows that live in a “comfort home” instead of a barn.

On the final day of the congress, Aug. 19, we will gather in Stockholm for the IFAJ Congress banquet, which will be held at the City Hall of Stockholm — the same venue as the Nobel Prize banquet.

photo courtesy of Holger.Ellgaard, from Wikipedia

Lena Johansson, the congress’ general, says there will be presentations during the congress that show how agriculture is integrated with other activities in society.

“The future role of agriculture and forestry will also be discussed, as well as more and new possibilities in the future,” she says.

Sweden is the fifth largest country in Europe — 450,000 square kilometres. A total of 53 per cent of the country is forests and eight per cent cultivated land. From its northern tips to southern tip, the longest distance is 1,574 kilometres — roughly the distance from the Ontario/Manitoba border to Calgary.

Sweden has 72,000 farm businesses, 20 per cent of which are dairy farms, so milk production the single biggest agricultural product. Total agricultural land in the country is 2.6 million hectares.

Of the 72,000 farm businesses, 31 per cent are farmer-owned and 61 per cent partly leased. The average farm is 36.5 hectares in size. Although the tendency is that arable land per farm is increased annually, Sweden is facing the same agricultural phenomenon as seen in other parts of the world — the number of farms with less than 100 hectares is decreasing and the number of larger farms with more than 100 hectares is increasing.

photo courtesy of the Image Bank of Sweden

The central and southern regions of Sweden are mostly crop land and the southern regions are mostly dairy and other livestock. Farms in the north of Sweden are mostly small farms combined with forestry.

The congress will be held at Sånga-Säby, what congress organizers call a site beautifully situated on Ekerö island in lake Mälaren, 35 kilometres west of Stockholm city. Once a school for farmers, the facility is now a residential study and conference centre and owned by the Federation of Swedish Farmers. Sånga-Säby is environmentally certified and serves food prepared from products from the Swedish farmers.

photo courtesy of the Image Bank of Sweden

Culture Club

This is almost my last post about my trip in January to Berlin! There were just so many great sights and stories that evolved from the visit and I love sharing them. I was going to  make this my last post, but when I started going through my photos, I knew I would need just one more.

International Green Week is a celebration of food, agriculture and horticulture, but the most obvious of those is the culture that’s emitted from every step along the way through the 26 acres of halls. Countries proudly display their flags, wear their traditional costumes, recreate small corners of their homeland, play their music and share their home with the rest of the world. It’s a welcoming feeling along every step.

Here are the last of my photos from International Green Week, these ones looking at the culture around the show.

German dancers, wearing traditional costumes
These women weren't nearly as stiff as their costumes make them look.
Musicians outside one of the beer gardens.
This Russian choir gave a commanding performance.
Russion bread
This display of Russian bread is more like an art display.

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

I spent the last week in Berlin, Germany, attending executive meetings of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists. We were hosted by International Green Week, the world’s largest food, agriculture and horticulture show.

The show features exhibitors from around the world, and many selling food and showcasing the agricultural specialties of their part of the world.

Here are a few sights… More to come in future blog posts…

This lovely German potato farmer seemed thrilled that I came to visit his booth in the agricultural section of International Green Week. He proudly told me that they had 420 varieties of potatoes on display.

Guess which country had the large tulip display? Holland, of course.

Pakistan’s booth had a heavy emphasis on food traceability and food safety.

These guys didn’t appear very impressed with International Green Week.

Canadian farm journalists examine food crisis

Alan Scholz of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada is the winner of the first ever International Federation of Agricultural Journalists-YARA award for Reporting on Sustainable World Agriculture.

Scholz’s story, Food Scarcity – A Myth?, appeared in the Spring 2011 edition of Sustainable Futures magazine, published by the Agricultural Institute of Canada. Judges said Scholz “dared to ask if there really is a problem with sustainability, and like good journalism often does, it offered a contrary direction to popular thought.” In that way, they said, it opened the door for further debate and discussion. But despite its clear perspective, the story was well balanced, offering no single, simple feel-good solution.

“The writer described this complex, emotional topic fairly, in an easy-to-understand, realistic way that can basically be summed up by saying a multi-faceted approach is needed to address the complicated food problem,” they said.

Laura Rance of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada received distinguished recognition for her story in the Winnipeg Free Press newspaper, ”Put on pot of soup, help fight food crisis.” Judges called her story “very well-balanced, discussing pros and cons.” They said Rance “combines different aspects of the world food situation in a very convincing way. Conclusions from FAO and from researchers are taken into account and presented, so they can be used in our daily life. She succeeds in presenting a complicated problem and a simple set of solutions.”

Distinguished recognition was also given to Deanna Lush of Australia for her story in Stock & Land newspaper, entitled ”Crop quality key to feeding the world.” The judges said Lush “focused on better food quality, and not just quantity, an important aspect of producing enough food for more than nine billion people in 2050.” They noted the story focuses on nutrient deficiency – sometimes called hidden hunger – and praised Lush for describing farmers’ and scientists’ role in reducing nutrient deficiency. Several relevant cases are used, giving the reader a thorough understanding of the problem.

The awards were announced at the 2011 International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ) Congress awards banquet in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.

The competition drew 23 entries from eight countries. The theme was how to feed a growing world population.

Judges for the inaugural competition were Henning Otte Hansen of Denmark, Cathy Reade of Australia’s Crawford Fund and a team of Fred Kirschenmann, Jeri Neal and Laura Miller of the University of Iowa’s Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.

The award was sponsored by YARA International ASA, a global firm specializing in agricultural products and environmental protection agents.

The IFAJ is a non-political, professional association for agricultural journalists in 31 countries. It serves as a platform for communication, information and professional development for agricultural journalists from all over the world.

The IFAJ-YARA competition co-ordinator was IFAJ secretary general Owen Roberts of Canada. Guidance, support and liaison activities for the inaugural award were provided by IFAJ member Jorgen Lund Christiansen of Denmark.

Further information about the IFAJ-YARA award is availble on the IFAJ website, or by contacting Roberts.

IFAJ 2011 Sneak Peak: Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show

When the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists meet in Ontario in September, one of the sites we’ll have a chance to visit is Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show.

I’ve never been to the show, but it has been on my To Do list for several years. I’m quite looking forward to attending with my IFAJ colleagues. The video above is a sample of last year’s show.

When freelancers need more than a "work like hell" biz plan

With the early registration deadline for the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists’ congress in Canada only days away, now is the best time to decide if you’re attending. Of course, you can register after the early bird deadline, but it will cost an additional $200.

Freelance writers have a particular concern. The cost of the congress — whether it’s the Canadian guild meeting, or the international meeting — is always top of mind. The congress cost is a big expense, and when I have to pay the entire cost myself, it certainly makes me stop and look at my financial situation before dishing out any money.
As well, I live in eastern Canada, so airfare is another consideration. It usually costs me extra to fly anywhere.
But when I look at the benefit of attending either the national or international congress, I ask myself one question: Why I would I NOT attend? It’s money very well spent; in fact, the expense is an investment in my career.
Why’s that?
Well, at IFAJ 2011 in Guelph, Ont. in September — or any of the other IFAJ congresses — there will be about 300 agricultural communicators and journalists, from all around the world. By attending, I’ll have the chance to meet each one of them. We’ll dine together, sit beside each other on the bus, muck through barns in our disposable protective footware, share a table at professional development sessions, tour food processors wearing silly hair nets, toast each other over drinks, sing together and share laughs. The congresses are held in relaxed, casual settings and are the perfect forum to get to know other like-minded professionals. The experiences we share at these congresses solidify our profession.

It’s easy to look around the congresses and see the teambuilding going on. But there’s also a lot of business activity happening that we don’t see. Our national guilds (and IFAJ) include public relations professionals, journalists, communicators, broadcasters, editors, publishers — anyone involved in ag communications. Many of the people in a position to assign work or hire contract writers are often circulating among us.
All the contract work I do today is because of just one connection I made at one of our national guild meetings. That work now puts me in a situation where I subcontract to freelance writers. I know of several others within our national guild who are in the same position. It’s not unusual for me to receive phone calls from others in our guild who are looking for a freelance writer or someone to do some public relations writing for them. Last year at the IFAJ congress in Belgium, I overheard a conversation between a publisher and a foreign freelance journalist. The journalist was considering immigrating to the country where the publisher works. “Give me a call,” the publisher said, “I’m always looking for good writers.”

And even if I don’t get a call immediately after the congress for a chance at freelance work, I could very well receive a call sometime in the future, or could myself been looking for a freelancer in the months ahead. You never know for sure when it’s going to benefit you, but I feel it’s our job as freelancers to work at these gatherings to make sure we are a part of every opportunity.

The cost of a congress is a concern, and I agree that it holds merit. But think of the alternative. Lower cost accommodations, such as a university residence, could be considered. But that has its own set of complications. The congress time would be restricted to June, July or early August, a time when many people are on vacation with their families. And in many parts of the world, those months tend to bring warmer temperatures. Many university residences aren’t air conditioned. And it’s common for residences to request off season visitors bring their own linens. Is that any way to welcome visitors to our country?

The early registration cost for the IFAJ 2011 congress is $1,090, double occupancy. Sharing a room with someone you don’t know can often be a gamble, but if we’re looking at this to save money, it’s the best place to start. That price includes your hotel fee for six nights, all meals, bus transportation to farms and tickets to a dinner theatre event hotel fees. It’s certainly not a bare bones congress, but it isn’t lavish either. The hotel is modest — exactly what is to be expected of a conference of professionals.

And maybe that’s the key. As freelancers, we need to recognize the fact that we’re professionals. We’re entrepreneurs and we need to operate our businesses that way — including writing business plans, setting goals and budgeting for professional development and career boosting opportunities. I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t always worked this way. For many of my 20 years as a freelancer, my business plan was “work like hell.” But over time, I grew tired of working just to keep my head above water. I felt the need to have career goals and feel a sense of professional accomplishment. It’s a never-ending evolution.

Every handshake at an IFAJ or guild congress is an opportunity for future work. It pays to be open to every chance we have to develop and grow our career, even if the upfront cost might hurt a little.

Cooking with Souvenirs

When I was in Berlin, Germany early this year at International Green Week, one of the items I picked up was a jar of a traditional Polish treat, krem mleczny.

The display at Green Week was amazing. The fountain of luscious caramel flowed and the rich, deep aroma drew us in. It managed to captured our attention above the assaults on our senses that surrounded us at Green Week.

I didn’t really have a plan for how to use the krem mleczny at home. I tucked it away in the cupboard, but every time I saw it, I wondered what to do with it. I often thought it would be good as a topping on ice cream.

Jose, a colleague also involved with the International Federation of Agriculture Journalists, bought the same treat and ended up using hers in a cake, which I thought was a great idea. When my mother-in-law invited us over for dinner a few days ago and told us a few other relatives would also be there, I volunteered to make dessert. Then, I started looking for a fabulous cake recipe.

The cake ended up being a bit more work then I expected, since it fell apart when I tipped it onto the cooling rake. My kids had no sympathy for me, though, and were more than happy to eat bits that were half in the pan and half on the counter.

In the end, all was good – very good! I used the krem mleczny as the filling between the two layers of the white cake and made a simple frosting. I probably could have made a cake in a tube pan, heated the krem and used it like a glaze, and the cake was probably a bit more dense than what the krem is usually used with, but it was a delicious learning experience and next time, I’ll have a better idea of how to put the treat to good use.

New IFAJ contest addresses hot ag topic

It’s a question the agricultural industry — including journalists and communicators — has been asking repeatedly lately. It’s even a topic that has spilled into mainstream media as analysts examine the topic.

Experts say agricultural production must double during the next 40 years. How does the world continue to feed its growing population?

As our work as agricultural journalists and communicators leads us to examine this question, the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ) has unveiled a new contest, the IFAJ Award for Reporting on Sustainable World Agriculture. The award will recognize excellence in work that examines issues-based questions each year.

The IFAJ Award for Reporting on Sustainable World Agriculture is open to articles, internet productions or radio/TV broadcasts on the broad topics of hunger, feeding the world sustainably and meeting the challenge of providing nutrition to a growing world population.

This new award provides a unique professional development opportunity for all IFAJ members to participate in a broad-based contest that is relevant to current global issues — the goal of higher food production with a lower carbon footprint.

Entries to this year’s contest must address the following theme:
“How to feed a still growing world population? Can we double agricultural production towards 2050? Experts say we must double agricultural production during the next 40 years in order to avoid hunger and in order also to produce agricultural products for energy purposes. At the same time agricultural land will only increase slightly, and water may be an even more limited resource.”

Individual IFAJ members from countries with paid-up memberships are eligible to enter. This means national guilds are not required to have a judging or selection process to decide on an entry to go forward. One entry per member is allowed.

Entries may be a written article, a radio program or a television/internet production.

Entries should touch on the broad themes of hunger, feeding the world sustainably or meeting the challenge of providing nutrition to a growing world population. Entries can be macro (global, regional or national) or micro (local) points of view. Entries may focus on a broad array of topics including food supply and demand, trade, production agriculture practices and policy.

Judging will be based on objectivity, balance, content, clarity and relevance to the theme. Solid organization, depth of reporting and brightness of style will be examined. Entries have no length (words, minutes, etc.) requirement, but must have been published or aired in one (print) issue or single broadcast; series of reports are ineligible.

Entries must have been published or aired between January 1, 2010 and June 1, 2011. In this first year of the award, entries scheduled to be published or aired no later than December 31, 2011 are also eligible.

All entries must be written or spoken in English. The committee of judges will consider less perfect English from participants whose primary language is not English. Entry deadline is June 15, 2011.

The following information must be provided in the e-mail to which the article is attached:

  • Name, address, e-mail address and telephone number of the entrant;
  • Name of IFAJ member association of which the entrant is a member;
  • Name of publication, broadcast station or Web site where entry was published or aired;
  • Date and/or issue of broadcast, posting, airing, or publication;
  • The intended audience for the entry (consumers? farmers?)
For print entries, the layout and design will not be considered in the judging.
Entries, submitted in electronic format such as PDF or MP3, must be submitted to:
International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ)
c/o Secretary General Owen Roberts, University of Guelph, Guelph, Canada
email: owen(at)

An email directing judges to the entry via a link to broadcast sites such as is also acceptable.


Cash prizes for first (3,000 euro), second (1,500 euro) and third place (750 euro) will be awarded, with the winners of the contest announced at the 2011 IFAJ Congress in Canada, September 2011. IFAJ will publish the names of the winners and will publish their work at IFAJ reserves the right to use the entries and subsequent critiques in future professional development activities.


A panel of three judges will form an independent committee. The judging panel is lead by distinguished professor Henning Otte Hansen, senior adviser at the Institute of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen. Other judges will be selected from North/South America, and Africa/Asia/Australia/New Zealand.