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

Farm Writers in Atlantic Canada

Have you ever had the experience of working with people who are so excited and enthused about a project that it rubs off on you? I love that feeling.

I had that experience earlier this week when I had a conference call meeting with three people from Atlantic Canada. Together, we’re working to start a regional branch of our national farm writers’ guild, the Canadian Farm Writers’ Federation (CFWF).

Up front, I have to say that the desire to start our own group is in no way a reflection of the branch we currently belong to, the Eastern Canadian Farm Writers’ Federation (ECFWA). The simple vastness of Canada and the geographic divide between the majority of our current ECFWA members means farm writers in Atlantic Canada feel disconnected.

Personally, the desire to gather together with some of our own is inspired by ECFWA, as well as CFWF and our international group, the International Federation of Agriculture Journalists (IFAJ). Once I experienced gatherings with like-minded individuals, I felt the aspiration to do it more often with those closer to me.

Not all farm writers in Atlantic Canada are onboard with the formation of a regional group. Some have said they want to maintain connections with former colleagues within ECFWA, while others may not be interested in the work involved in setting up a new organization (not that anyone has said that to me, I’m just speculating). I hope they’ll reconsider.

The folks I met with earlier this week are keen and ready to get a local group formed. We’re pooling our talents to host a day of farm and research centre tours on June 4.

Early in my career when I wrote for daily newspapers from rural New Brunswick, I kept hearing the untold stories of farmers and opted to help be one of their voices. From that, I found out about CFWF and that connection eventually led me to focus my career on agriculture writing.

Through CFWF, I’ve toured farms across the country, met agriculture experts and associates, gained writing and editing jobs and met hundreds of Canadian farmers. I’ve also met a lot of great people and developed some very good friendships.

Cumulatively, what the organizations have given me inspire me to help create like opportunities for farm writers in Atlantic Canada. I hope we’ll create a network, come to count on each other and grow opportunities for ourselves.

Then together, we can help farmers tell their stories about the food they grow for us.

Class action suit settled


CTVglobemedia announced earlier this week that they have agreed to pay $11 million to settle the class action suit launched 13 years ago by Heather Robertson on behalf of thousands of freelance writers claiming their work was reproduced electronically without proper permission or compensation.

“The Professional Writers Association of Canada is thrilled with the news of the settlement. This has been a long ongoing process and we appreciate Heather Robertson taking the lead role in the battle for the protection of writers’ rights,” said PWAC President, Tanya Gulliver. “As freelancers we want to be fairly compensated for the work that we do, and want to ensure that publishers recognize the value of our work. This settlement, stemming from the Supreme Court decision in 2006 that supported our position that freelancers own control of their work unless otherwise agreed upon, is historic and a great achievement for the freelance writing industry.”

PWAC and Ms. Robertson, a founding member of PWAC, are optimistic that the settlement will expedite a positive outcome in other pending lawsuits and set a precedent protecting creators’ intellectual property rights and ensure fair compensation for digital exploitation of their work.

Ms. Robertson would also like to thank PWAC and the many individual members who have vocally supported her over the years and provided financial assistance to help cover her legal costs.

Ms. Robertson and her legal representatives will be publishing a full version of the settlement and a notice to claimants in the Globe and Mail and the National Post on Saturday.