Sonja Hillgren Honored with Missouri Ag Scholarship

North American Ag Journalists organization endows scholarship.

From the North American Ag Journalists Association

The University of Missouri will award a scholarship to journalism students interested in agricultural journalism beginning in 2010 in honor of Sonja Hillgren, a prominent reporter, editor and magazine executive who died in 2006. 

Hillgren advocated panoramic coverage of all factors affecting modern agriculture - dietary trends, tax law, environmental policy and trade negotiations among them. The scholarship of $1,250 a year will encourage top-notch students to specialize in the field.

"We are proud to honor the memory of one of the greatest agricultural journalists of our times and help make it possible for future agricultural journalists to follow in her footsteps," said Urban Lehner of DTN, president of North American Agricultural Journalists, which led a fundraising drive to endow the scholarship. 

During her career, Hillgren rode in the "tractorcade" of farm protesters in 1979, wrote about the decade-long transformation of U.S. farm policy to emphasize free markets above crop controls, covered the school nutrition fight lampooned as "ketchup is a vegetable" and created an annual forum in Washington on food and farm policy in the 1990s.

A Missouri journalism graduate, Hillgren was a long-time member of NAAJ and, while its president in 1987, took a leading role in modernizing the group and broadening its membership.

She also was National Press Club president in 1996. Jerry Hagstrom of the newsletter CongressDaily said Hillgren "for many years was the most prominent agricultural journalist in Washington.

Hillgren died of cancer on Dec 19, 2006, at age 58 while editorial director of Farm Journal Media. She began her national reporting career as farm editor of United Press International and shifted to Knight-Ridder Newspapers before joining Farm Journal. 

Donations to the NAAJ-Sonja Hillgren Memorial Scholarship can be made through the Office of Development, Missouri School of Journalism, 103 Neff Hall, Columbia, Missouri 65211.

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