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Current Issue

CFWF Annual General Meeting

Wednesday, June 2, 2021, at 3:00 p.m. EST

Register here

Join with your fellow farm writers to review the activities of the past year and hear the plans for the coming year:

  • Reports from the president, secretariat, regional associations and our IFAJ rep
  • Update on the new awards program and the planned mentorship program
  • All the latest on the 2021 annual conference in Windsor, ON
  • And the piece de resistance . . . elections!

Stick around afterwards for a bit of a social – choose a breakout group and strike up a conversation with friends and colleagues!

CFWF 2021 Awards Program

‘New and improved’ all around

By Hugh Maynard

CFWF Awards Program Chairperson

Back in the early years of CFWF it took a farm writer a day or so by train to get to the annual conference and, if you won an award for your writing or broadcasting . . . you took home a ribbon, just like at the fair.

For about the last 30 years, we’ve been able to jet across the country in a few hours to attend the conference, and winners in the annual CFWF awards contest, thanks to the generosity of sponsors, have picked up a cheque and a certificate as a reward for their excellence.

The journalism and communications industries have undergone massive change over the last quarter century, and so the time has come to review and update the awards program. We’ve tinkered with the package in the past as the digital age enveloped our professional lives, adding in blogs, websites and other features, and no one submits the print of a photo anymore. 

But this is the first complete review and restructuring of the CFWF Awards program since Peter Hohenadel rolled up his sleeves in 1992 to put a “new and improved” program in place. It’s been a great success over the years, awarding more than 1,200 prizes in the recognition of excellence in Canadian agricultural journalism and communications.

Which is the one thing that hasn’t changed about the program? The principle foundations of recognizing excellence and professional development (judges’ comments) remain at the heart of the program. And, thanks to the continued generosity of sponsors, the fame of winning a prize in the competition also comes with a small amount of fortune – a nice pat on the back for a job well done in the form of a cheque. 

So, What’s New?

There are four main areas of change to the structure of the awards: 

  • The removal of frequency of publication as one of the criteria in several categories
  • The creation of groups with an additional “of-the-year” award for each group
  • Three additional separate “of-the-year” awards to recognize excellence regardless of category
  • Redistribution of prize money to accommodate for more award categories


With the increasing presence of digital publishing, the frequency criteria for daily, weekly and monthly press reporting has lost its pertinence. Criteria for all categories is now based on the type of writing or broadcasting regardless of frequency:

  • Electronic Communications (same as before)
  • Communications (now short and long, previously news release and general periodical)
  • Features (technical, current affairs and people)
  • Reporting (technical, current affairs and business/economic)
  • Photos (people, production and landscape)



The 14 awards categories have been sorted into four groups and a new “of-the-year” award has been added to each group which will be selected from among the gold winner for each category within a group:

  • Communicator of the Year
  • Feature of the Year
  • Reporting of the Year
  • Photo of the Year
  • Opinion Writing – the previous editorial and column categories have been combined into one and this will be the only standalone category.


More Excellence

Three new awards have been added to the program to recognize excellence above and beyond the 14 individual categories.

  • Farm Writer of the Year
  • New Writer of the Year
  • Story of the Year

These new awards add an extra element of excellence to the awards program and first two categories recognize a farm writer or broadcasters’ body of work for the previous year. The winner for third category will be chosen from among the winners of the other “of-the-year” categories.



New categories, new prizes. The gold, silver and bronze winners in each category will now receive $125, $100 and $75 respectively, and the winner of each group (of the year) will receive an additional $250. The prizes for the Opinion Writer will stay the same as in the past with $300, $200 and $100 for gold, silver and bronze respectively.

Story of the Year: $500

New Writer of the Year: $500

Farm Writer of the Year: $750

Check out all the details here.


Want to find out more? 

Register here for the CFWF online awards information session on May 18th at 3:00 p.m. EDT

Many thanks to the CFWF Awards Committee for all their work over the last year:

Trevor Bacque, CFWF president; CFWF directors Tracey Feist and Myrna Stark-Leader; and CFWF Secretariat, Norma Tolhurst and Alexandra Hayden.

CFWF Annual Conference

Sept. 23-25, 2021, in Windsor, ON

The Eastern Canada Farm Writers’ Association (ECFWA) invites all CFWF members to join them in Windsor, Ontario, this September for CFWF2021 – Risky Business.

Due to the uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the conference will be a hybrid event, consisting of an in-person conference based out of Caesar’s Windsor and Zoom live broadcast sessions. It will be held Thursday, Sept. 23 – Saturday, Sept. 25.

They plan to provide the tours, professional development sessions, and networking opportunities that are a hallmark of CFWF conferences. Plans are currently being revised and confirmed and details will be released as they become available. Conference events will be subject to change based on public health guidelines and travel restrictions. Please look for conference registration to open later in May.

Information about the CFWF2021 conference will be posted at www.ecfwa.ca

Agriculture ‘discovers’ new BC president

By Zoe Aikman

Ronda Payne, president of the British Columbia Farm Writers’ Association


As a BC native and long-time board member, Ronda Payne’s new presidency of the BC regional association for CFWF comes as no surprise to those in the field. Over 14 years ago, Ronda was working in marketing, a career she had been led to because of her writing skills, “that just seemed to be the common theme for me; I’ve been a writer all my life.” 

Once she reached the end of that career, she went out on her own. She became a freelancer, where she met Cathy Glover, the editor of Country Life in BC and began writing for the publication. “Agriculture just kind of found me. I didn’t really intend to go into that area; it just sort of happened for me,” she expressed. 

Upon beginning her journey in agricultural journalism, Ronda quickly realized how little exposure this field has in the public eye— if someone like herself who had some knowledge and appreciation knew so little, how little does the rest of the world know? Payne stated that this became her impetus to stick with agricultural writing. It became her goal to educate more people on the importance of our food system in Canada, “I’ve come to really appreciate that our farmers in Canada are ridiculously intelligent people— they’re innovative, they’re strategic, they’re the hardest working people in the country. And they do so without telling their own stories enough. I think that’s one issue that we’re dealing with is that our farmers need to talk more about their experiences and get the chance to do so,” she said.

Concerning her involvement with the CFWF, she described the organization’s BC chapter as a “small but mighty group of writers” that have important stories to be told and get the job done. “Once I signed up, I was in, that was that,” she stated.  From there, she eased into the idea of being on the board and then quickly embraced the role, serving as secretary for several years before finally accepting the position as president. “It’s a super important organization to me, it’s ridiculously relevant, and I have a very strong team of people on the board with me so it didn’t seem so intimidating,” she said. 

When asked about the difficulties of the new role with the onset of COVID-19, Ronda seemed up for the challenge, “Coming into it this year and having been on the board already, I’m pretty aware of the challenges we’re facing to get people to come out”, she asserted, “The awareness of what can be done and what can’t be done is pretty firm, though I think if someone who came into that role without that background would maybe have struggled initially.” 

Concerning the things she would like to accomplish this year as president, Ronda underlined the importance of member connectivity, a goal the organization is emphasizing this year amidst the ongoing pandemic. “My big focus is that making sure members get what they need and that we are taking care of them the way that a member-driven organization should, and that going forward we are planning events and activities,” she asserted, “Obviously, initially those are going to be online based, we have a social planned already that will be zoom-based and I’m really hopeful that by the end of 2021 were going to have a sort of in-person activity as restrictions ease up, because we need it.” 

Payne further emphasized the importance of having an organization like CFWF support such an autonomous profession during these periods of isolation. “Being a writer is a very independent occupation, and I think that if we could just have more time with each other, it does give us the lift we need,” she said, “Writers need other writers; there’s no one who understands what we do like each other. We can take it that step further with CFWF because it’s a specific niche, and we absolutely need to support each other, now especially, but always.”

Alberta Farm Writers’ begin work on  Legacy Project

 By Zoe Aikman

Creating a legacy project to ensure the longevity of the Alberta Farm Writers’ Association   (AFWA) has been brewing for some time. While there had been much discussion about the project between members Janet Kanters and Craig Lester, it was at the AWFA Spring 2020 meeting last year where it was finally brought to fruition with the establishment of a committee to envision this legacy. 

The committee decided on creating a curriculum that would help to promote a career in agricultural journalism and communications, offer an opportunity to their members to discuss their career paths, and lastly to honour the 65-year history of the AFWA. 

“We wanted to be able to connect our members with two groups in the province: first, the post-secondary institutions that offer agriculture as a program, be it degree or diploma. The second was to connect with the 4H organization in the province,” said committee member Tracey Feist. 

The group has established three streams for the project: creating a 4H project on agriculture journalism and communications, working with current college and university agriculture programs to establish both journalism and communications classes and or curriculum, and offering AFWA members the opportunity to share their career history in both those career streams. “We want to make sure that we encourage up-and-coming students to recognize that this is a valuable career choice for them going forward,” said Feist. 

The legacy group consists of long-time AFWA members Janet Kanters, Tracey Feist and Mary MacArthur, current AFWA President Craig Lester, and members Ian Doig and Jessika Guse. “It’s always important to give back— being a volunteer is important throughout all levels of your life,” stated Feist, “4H taught me to give back, and that’s what AFWA is trying to do as a longstanding association in the province.” 

Regarding how the project is moving along, Feist explained that the committee is taking baby steps, “There’s an old saying, the one way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. While this could be an elephant for us, we want to do it right, and we’re willing to take the time to ensure that we can bring this project to fruition.” 

When asked about what she would like to see in 30 years, Feist emphasized increased awareness of agricultural communications and journalism as a career field, and ensuring young communicators have the tools necessary to follow that path. 

“The goal of the project is to show students in high schools, college and university that this is a great career choice. There are groups like the CFWF there to support you, provide you with that mentorship, education, and support to help you succeed,” she expressed. 

The committee is excited to move this project along and encourage AFWA members to step forward and offer their expertise to the next generation of members and agriculture journalists and communicators.

Mobilizing agricultural knowledge: Owen Roberts is on a mission

By Zoe Aikman

Owen Roberts, instructor and faculty member at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications Program

Just as he was at the cusp of retiring after 33 years of teaching and research administration at the University of Guelph, Owen Roberts was given a unique opportunity: expand the agricultural communications program at the University of Illinois, one of the oldest and most established agricultural communications programs on the continent. Roberts accepted this challenge and now holds a teaching and development-oriented faculty position. Through this position, Roberts hopes to bring some international qualities to the program. “Given how the world has developed with COVID-19 and globalized trade, having some international perspective is really important,” he said, “Whatever the Illinois students end up doing, they’ll be a cut above if they have an understanding of agriculture globally.”

Roberts has also recently been asked to chair a task force on education, training and professional development with the International Federation of Agriculture (IFAJ), where he plans to highlight some of the same qualities he believes are vital to modern agricultural journalism. With IFAJ, Roberts will be exploring creating a certificate program in agricultural journalism and communications, where his vision is to have participants from all over the world and provide those who are engaged in the program with some global understanding. “This would allow students to get together, learn from each other and learn from experts we bring in from various countries,” Roberts explained. “There are a lot of countries in IFAJ that don’t have formal agricultural communications education, so this could give participants from these locations some academic credentials.” 

Some of the topics to be explored within the certificate will be ethics and the role of journalists as knowledge mobilizers. Roberts believes that ethics is of particular importance and has always been an issue among journalists because of external pressures and influences. “There needs to be a good dialogue to ensure that the role of ethics is clearly understood,” he explained, “that there isn’t undue influence being put on journalists and that there’s trust in journalism.” He also believes that the role of journalists as knowledge mobilizers is an important one to look at as well, as it is what the public or farmers are looking to journalists for, especially as the knowledge gets more technical and issues get more complex. “As expert marketer Alan Quarry told participants in a recent CFWF webinar, don’t be a content provider, be a context provider,” he says.

When asked about advice he would give to a young journalist or communicator, Owen said to work on and build their portfolio, find a ‘shtick’ that makes them stand out and know the difference between advocacy and information. “I’ve heard people say that if you’re not for agriculture, then you’re not part of the community, you’re not helping, and I don’t think that’s true. I think there’s a role for people who are writing news about the agricultural sector. Still, the agriculture sector has to realize, as does everybody, that news isn’t always good. And I think that’s a distinction that needs to be understood, not just by journalists but by the whole industry— journalists will not necessarily be advocates for agriculture and nor do you want them to be.”

Finally, Roberts points to CFWF as instrumental in his career and how beneficial its membership can be for young journalists just getting into the field. He emphasized that the “major players” in Canadian agricultural journalism and communications belong to CFWF and joining a professional organization to get contacts and become part of the culture is vital for developing a new writer’s career and enjoyment of agricultural journalism. Roberts further expressed his excitement for the future of the field and his hopes for its future growth. “If you’re interested in going into agricultural journalism, you’ve arrived at the right time,” he asserts, “Calling yourself an agricultural journalist is going to be more of an asset than ever.” 

With his new position at the University of Illinois in hand and an IFAJ program in the works, Owen is grateful for the current developments in the profession and the existing organizations like CFWF that will support the next generations young bright minds, “In journalism, reporting on agriculture has been kind of confined to a small group that is poised to get bigger…if people know about it. So making university students aware that there is a professional organization that they can connect with is a great idea.”

CFWF Mentorship Program

Support for agricultural journalists and communicators in the early stages of their career

Late last year, Crystal Leader, Saskatchewan director on the CFWF board, and Lisa Guenther, a past CFWF president, brought forward the idea of starting a mentorship program for the members of the federation. Mentorship programs are a common feature amongst the activities of many professional associations, but not yet CFWF.

Most mentorship programs are aimed at taking the learnings, experience and skills of those who have been working in their profession for many years, and giving a helping hand to those just starting out, or even those trying to chart a new course. Their proposal would be to focus on those interested in gaining knowledge, looking for support and possibly working in the areas of agricultural journalism and communications. “We would like to match a mentor with a mentee who has the desire to grow in these fields,” they said.

The CFWF board responded positively to the idea and formed an ad hoc committee which met in February to discuss ideas and possibilities. Also present were a number of previous IFAJ Alltech Young Leaders and there were also written comments sent in from others who could not attend. 

Lisa had previously looked at other mentorship programs for examples, such as the Canadian Cattlemens’ Association, and others such our American colleagues at the Agricultural Communicators Network (formerly AAEA), were also put on the table for examination.

It was agreed that the purpose, broadly speaking, of offering a mentorship program would be to provide professional development for individuals new to the sector and support the development of the industry itself. It was also agreed that it would be appropriate to support mentorship activities through the CFWF PD Fund. This was agreed to in principle at the CFWF board meeting in April 2021.

The consensus that has evolved from the committee and board discussions is that:  

  • The program must offer value to attract quality participation (both mentees and mentors);
  • Applicants must submit a plan to signal their intentions and demonstrate a commitment to the program;
  • The program should be made accessible to those new to the sector, not just youth (i.e. under 30 yrs age); and
  • It should be open to different agri-food sectors (i.e. food bloggers) but they must become a CFWF member to participate.

Other points that were prominent:

  • There could be a dual focus – supporting journalism and communications in the agricultural sector, as well as raising awareness of the agricultural sector amongst non-agricultural journalists and communicators;
  • The primary focus of the program should be on the individual (mentee/mentor relationship) but that there could also be a group element (depending on numbers) such as social media groups, online sessions and gatherings at the annual conference;.
  • It should be offered as a pilot program to start, with ‘Mentorship Lite’ to see what can be accomplished (rather than trying to over-achieve given limited resources to organize with)


Next Steps

To start, you can signal your interest in the program by letting us know whether you would like to find out more about becoming a mentor or a mentee – sign up here.

The CFWF committee and board will continue to work out the details for offering the program and how much financial support can be invested each year. The aim will be to convene mentors and mentees during the CFWF conference to be held September 23-25, 2021 in Windsor, ON (or online if COVID restrictions prevent the event from being held).

So, keep a lookout for more news soon!

CFWF Code of Conduct

Standards of personal and professional behaviour for CFWF events

This CFWF Code of Conduct sets out the standards of personal and professional behaviour expected from those who take part in CFWF events and online communications and the sanctions that may be applied if those standards are not respected. The overall aim is to ensure a collegial, respectful and harassment‐free experience for everyone, and professional and culturally aware behaviour at all times.

Access the complete code of conduct here.

IFAJ 2021 eCongress

June 21-23, 2021

President Lena Johansson will lead the discussions at the IFAJ 2021 online Delegate Assembly

For the second year, the annual congress of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ), to be held in Denmark, was cancelled due to the COVID pandemic and rescheduled to June 2022. So, for a second year, IFAJ will offer an online eCongress with professional development sessions, the Delegate Assembly (annual meeting) and the Star Prize awards presentation ceremony.

June 21 – Professional Development

Speakers and panels on climate change, engaging rural youth, international trade agreements, freedom of the press and more. Registration information will be sent out shortly via IFAJ.

June 22 – IFAJ Delegate Assembly

IFAJ’s online annual meeting with reports from the Presidium and Executive Committees, the latest on the IFAJ Foundation and on future congresses. Simultaneous translation into French and Spanish will be available if demand warrants. Registration for delegates and observers will be sent out shortly via IFAJ.

June 23 – A “Toast to Denmark” and Star Prize ceremony

The Danish Guild of Agricultural Journalists will present the program for the IFAJ Congress that they will host from June 27 to July 3, 2022. Join with your international colleagues for a “Toast to Denmark” (IFAJ 2022 Congress) and the presentation of the Star Prize award winners for excellence in agricultural journalism. The session will be wrapped up with a social hour – gather in the breakout room of your choice for a catch up conversation with your friends from all around the world.

Coming up faster than you think! 

IFAJ 2023 Congress in Olds, Alberta

It’s still a way off yet, and a lot of post-COVID waters that have to be navigated, but it’s going to be a great event to mark down in your agenda now:

June 27 to July 3, 2023 in Olds, Alberta

Olds is less than an hour north of the Calgary International Airport and home to Olds College, one of Western Canada’s leading agricultural teaching and research institutions. The Congress will be held in the modern convention centre on the campus, and participants will be able to stay in either the campus hotel or the residence to ensure that the congress will be both interesting and affordable.

Olds College is centred in the heart of Alberta’s agriculture community, it’s going to be a great congress – stay tuned for more news soon!

Webinars, Webinars, Webinars!

Didn’t have time to participate on the day of? 

No problem, you can catch up with our treasure trove of recorded professional development webinars lined up for you here:

CFWF Webinars
IFAJ Webinars


If you have news to share with your colleagues in the agricultural journalism and communications community, please send it to us for the next edition of the Farm Journalist. topics include:
Agriculture/communications events
Awards programs
Member profiles
New trends
and more!

Email us at Office@cfwf.ca