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Ben Pike elected as BGAJ chairman at 2024 annual meeting

By 28th March 2024April 8th, 2024No Comments

Agricultural marketing and PR expert Ben Pike has been elected as the next chairman of the British Guild of Agricultural Journalists at the Guild’s 81st Annual General Meeting.

Ben was voted into the role to replace Farmers Weekly chief reporter Johann Tasker, who stepped down at the AGM (21 May) after two years as chairman.

In his outgoing overview of the year to the 50 Guild members who joined the AGM, Johann said outreach had been a key theme over the last year, with the Guild working to build stronger connections with members, friends and other organisations in agriculture.

“Farmers do much more than produce food…. and communicating the benefits of that work both within the farming industry and beyond has seldom been more important,” he said.

Johann highlighted work the Guild had done over the past 12 months to support members, including organising the inaugural Agri-influence Forum, various CPD events, and the Guild’s annual harvest lunch, where guest speaker Theeb Partheeban MBE talked about diversity and to need attract more people to the industry.

“We continue to succeed in our goal of bringing people together, not only professionally but socially,” Johann added, pointing to the various Guild receptions held at events throughout the year, including Cereals, the Royal Highland Show, and UK Dairy Day.



Fellowships and memberships

Johann also paid special thanks to Clive Rainbird, who stepped down as BGAJ treasurer after six years in the role and almost 12 years sitting on the Guild Council.

Along with Johann, Clive was made a Fellow of the Guild at the AGM in recognition of his service to the organisation over the past decade.

In his own presentation to the AGM outlining the Guild’s finances, Clive said the organisation was in good financial shape and can look to the future “with great optimism”.

Thanks to income from strong membership numbers and generous support from sponsors, he said the Guild was in a healthy enough position to maintain membership fees at their 2023 rate, offering excellent value to members.

The Guild’s strong finances meant that members also voted to donate 5% of its subscription fees – a total of £1660 – to the BGAJ Charitable Trust, which supports members who find themselves in need of help.

“I am pleased to report that in 2023 there were more people coming forward asking [the Charitable Trust] for assistance,” said Clive. “This assistance isn’t always financial; it can often be just an ear to talk to and to share a problem with. But it’s been heartening to know that more people have come forward seeking support.

“Where things are noticeably changing in the last couple of years is that more and more of our applicants are younger people currently in their career, [not just] retired members,” he added.

“The charitable trust is there for all of [the Guild’s] members, not just the retirement members, it’s there for each of you, should you need it.”



Travel and awards

AGM attendees were also given the chance to learn about travel opportunities available to them through the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists and the European Network of Agricultural Journalists.

IFAJ representative Olivia Cooper outlined upcoming events including the IFAJ’s annual congress in Switzerland, as well as opportunities to apply for trips to the Netherlands, Vietnam and Thailand.

She also highlighted the opportunity for members to apply for funding to attend their first IFAJ congress through the Joe Watson Fund, and the chance for members to enter the IFAJ’s Star Award, which offers journalists, photographers and communicators a prize of up to $1000 for their work.

Further opportunities for Guild members to win were outlined by Olivia Midgely, who oversees the BGAJ Awards program. As well as the Guild’s usual array of awards, Olivia announced the creation of a podcast award, sponsored by podcaster Ben Eagle.



Navigating a changing industry

Accepting the role as chairman for the next two years, Ben Pike said he was looking forward to carrying on the Guild’s work and supporting members as they navigate a changing farming industry.

“The challenges the farming industry faces, from climate change and farm safety to the Sustainable Farming Incentive, rural crime and mental health… it’s going need our members to hold those in power to account, to bring clarity where there’s some confusion, and shine a light on the stories that inspire ideas and are changing the industry,” he said.

“I would like to work with my fellow directors to ensure that we’ve got all the training, the travel, the networking opportunities that our members need [to do that].

“Coming from a non-farming background, I’d [also] like to develop our offering for certainly young and inexperienced members so that they can see the value of the guild and feel confident and welcome turning up at our events,” he added.

“I’m certainly looking forward to the next couple of years, and I will do my best to keep the guild in the rude health that we find it in today.”



Watch the recording of the AGM below: