When I was first hired as a field editor at Prairie Farmer, my then-editor, Mike Wilson, was on fire about a group called IFAJ. He talked about the International Federation of Ag Journalists, or IFAJ, a lot. He received international calls, which was especially impressive. He went around the world to their meetings, and he talked and wrote about what he learned: global markets, European acceptance (or lack thereof) of biotechnology, international farm policy.
At the time, I thought it was all very interesting, but I was also immersed in learning my new job. Finally, two years ago, I got the chance to experience everything he talked about while attending my first IFAJ Congress, held in Sweden. That year, I was a member of the Young Ag Journalists Boot Camp, which took place in the days leading up to the Congress.
It was everything Mike said it would be: our eyes were opened by their awareness of U.S. agriculture, including the drought we were having at the time, and our ethanol policies. They understood our political candidates and our farm policy, better than many Americans. We visited Swedish farms, and I talked with African ag journalists who published their stories in a dozen different languages and dialects, who distributed newspapers themselves, and who worked to establish grain markets via satellite phone texting. We learned about national policy regarding livestock production, what it can do to farmers' ability to produce, and imports and exports.
We learned a lot in Sweden and this week we have the chance to do it all again, this time in Scotland. The 2014 IFAJ Congress will be held later this week in Aberdeen, Scotland, where 212 delegates from 37 countries will convene. It's estimated that the global audience of our group's reach is 40 million people.
Along with about 30 fellow Americans, I'll attend the delegate session on behalf of the American Ag Editors Association. And when the business is done, we'll immerse ourselves in Scottish agriculture: visiting the Tonley Aberdeen-Angus farm at Tonley, which is nearest to Tillyfour, where the Angus cattle breed began in the early 1800s. (I may be a Shorthorn girl, but I am still pretty excited about that.) We'll see Scottish sheep and venison farms, too, and meet young farmers leading Scottish production of vegetables, fruit, row crops and potatoes.
But besides all the farms and the new sights, I'm certain our eyes will be opened again: new conversations, new perspectives, new insights. I'll share them in the coming days, along with as many photos as I can.
In the meantime, many thanks to Mike Wilson for his tireless work with IFAJ and for opening my eyes to, well, a whole new world.