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Go to Swiss Congress: Joe Watson Fund opens for 2024

By 17th April 2024No Comments
Joe Watson Legacy FundNews

Trustees of the Joe Watson Legacy Fund have announced that its 2024 education programme will fund registration and travel for two delegates at IFAJ Congress, to be hosted by Switzerland in August.

Exploring the theme ‘High Elevations, High Expectations’, this year’s Congress looks at society’s expectations for food and agriculture and how Swiss farmers are meeting the challenge.

Taking place from Aug 14-18 in Interlaken, in the Bernese Oberland, the programme also includes farm visits, workshops about media and agriculture, and – for the touristically minded – a trip to the Jungfraujoch. Known as ‘The Top of Europe’, it is home to the highest railway station on the continent.

The famous Swiss cheese Raclette, made from the milk of Hérens cows, is 150 years old this year. Congress delegates will visit cheese-makers and enjoy a raclette dinner on the alpine pastures ( (©Valais_Wallis Promotion – Sedrik Nemeth)

“The Swiss organisers promise an impressive landscape and a diverse agriculture,” says Fund chairman Adrian Bell. “There’ll be plenty to learn about Swiss agriculture, what it produces, how it conveys its public image, and how it is managed under a federal policy.

“But Congress is also about getting the chance to spend the best part of a week with around 200 agricultural journalists drawn from the 60 countries that are IFAJ members. It’s a terrific opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences, as well as developing lasting friendships with people who share our professional interests,” he explains.

BGAJ delegates at Congress in Canada in 2023, including Emma Gillbard and Mike Abram, last year’s JWLF stipendiaries.

Farmers Weekly’s Emma Gillbard, who was a beneficiary of the Fund in 2023, found her first-time visit to Congress – in Alberta, Canada – an ‘eye-opening’ experience.

“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.

“Congress was a great networking opportunity to meet like-minded journalists from across the globe and discover more about the country’s agricultural systems. I look forward to attending again in the future and catching up with the great contacts I made during the trip.

“I can certainly recommend attending.”

Freelancer Mike Abram also went to Canada with assistance from the Fund. “Travelling for work has always been one of the best parts of being a journalist,” he says.

“Congress was a whirlwind of extremely interesting farm visits, presentations and dinners, but it was, as ever, the people you meet that leave the indelible impression. It provided the perfect opportunity to meet some incredible journalists and communicators from around the world.

“For me the hard work was when I came home. I successfully pitched in eight different articles to five different magazines.”

Trustees invite applications from journalists and communicators – this is as much a professional development event as it is a reporting opportunity – who have not previously attended an IFAJ Congress. This year’s stipends will cover the full cost of Congress registration, accommodation and travel.

>> Applications can be made here. The deadline for entries is May 6.

The Joe Watson Legacy Fund was established in memory of the late Press & Journal farming editor and former Guild Chairman Joe Watson. Joe’s sudden death in 2014, at the age of 43, came as the British Guild was preparing to host IFAJ Congress in Aberdeen later that year. A fierce advocate for IFAJ, at home and abroad, Joe had been instrumental in securing the event for BGAJ. The Congress’s Innovation Legacy Fund was named in his honour.

The Fund has recently been boosted by a substantial donation from a guild member. “This is a wonderful and very generous gesture that recognises the importance of education and training opportunities for ag journalism and communication,” says Adrian.

“Donations like these allow the Fund to continue its grant-making activities, both with overseas opportunities, such as Congress, as well as our individual grants for courses and other programmes.”

For more information about the Fund, or any questions about applications, email Adrian Bell:
More information about the IFAJ 2024 Congress is at