Emma Gillbard, a recipient of the 2023 Joe Watson Legacy Fund travel bursary, writes about how the fund supported a trip to the IFAJ Congress in Canada.
This summer, I was lucky enough to travel to Alberta, Canada as part of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ) annual Congress.
It was a great networking opportunity to meet like-minded journalists from across the globe and discover more about Canadian agricultural systems.
Journalists from every single continent were welcomed to a variety of farm talks and tours which ranged from the efficiencies of feed lots to the importance of water management in irrigated arable land.
I had not travelled to North America before so it really was an eye-opening experience – seeing the traditional American-style ‘red barns’ in real life was brilliant.
What struck me the most was how Southern Alberta relied so heavily on irrigation for successful crop production. In fact, Southern Alberta is home to 625,000ha of irrigated land.
What’s more, winters are extremely cold with temperatures plummeting to -30C, with significant snowfall from October to April. This means most arable farms are reliant on spring cropping.
A visit to Antley Valley Farms in central Alberta was a fascinating experience. Here, Canadian grain producer Wade McAllister discussed his future plans to combine his passion for farming and flying to enhance crop and soil health at the 1,500ha family farm, with his new helicopter.
Wade also explained how he successfully grew winter rye for the past two years, despite the freezing winter conditions. Planting in the autumn helps spread workload, reduces input costs and gives land a break from chemicals. “As long as rye survives the winter we don’t touch it until harvest,” says Wade.
Read the full article here: Grower improves fungicide use and compaction with helicopter – Farmers Weekly (fwi.co.uk)
Other highlights included visiting grain producer Lars Hirch who transformed his farm into a distillery after a trip to a Scotland when he realised all he needed to produce whisky was barley, yeast and water. Scotland trip inspires Canadian grower’s distillery – Farmers Weekly (fwi.co.uk)
As well as visiting the Hamill family who established Alberta’s first craft malthouse in a bid to add value to barley crops and ignite the family’s succession plan. How Canadian grower became Alberta’s first craft malthouse – Farmers Weekly (fwi.co.uk)
A big thankyou
We learn so much from visiting different places and meeting new people which is why it’s important to make the most of such amazing opportunities that membership of the BGAJ brings.
I would like to say a big thankyou to the BGAJ Joe Watson Legacy Fund for offering financial support in attending the annual IFAJ congress.
I look forward to attending Congress again in the future and catching up with the great contacts I made during the trip. I certainly recommend attending as it was a great experience.
The JWLF Trustees will announce details of the 2024 bursary scheme early next year.