Published on 1st May 2019
Guild member Mick Roberts has been selected as the beneficiary of a stipend from the Joe Watson Legacy Trust to attend this year's IFAJ Congress in the USA.
Mick will join journalists from around the world at the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists’ flagship event, which takes place this summer in Minneapolis.
An exceptionally strong field of applicants made for a difficult decision on the final selection for the stipend, says trust chairman Adrian Bell.
“This year’s applicants were an accurate portrayal of the depth and breadth of talent that exists within the British Guild,” said Adrian.
“The appreciation and understanding of the value of professional and personal development that the Fund is designed to nurture within our membership.
“Trustees were unanimous that Mick had submitted a fantastic pitch, leaving us in no doubt about how he would benefit from attendance at Congress, as well as what the Guild and agricultural communications in general could expect.
“He had clearly done his research and gave us a very comprehensive plan.”
The Joe Watson Legacy Fund was established after the 2014 IFAJ Congress, hosted by the British Guild in Aberdeen, Scotland.
Joe, who died in March 2014, was editor of the Press and Journal and a former Guild chairman. The fund's trustees are Adrian Bell, Louise Impey and Julie Mate.
Adrian, who serves as Treasurer on the IFAJ Presidium and is currently developing the IFAJ’s new global non-profit foundation, says he was delighted with the response to this year’s call for applications to Joe’s fund.
“I hope it reflects the growing awareness of the value that our IFAJ membership brings to members. Joe would have been thrilled that the offer of a fully-funded place at Congress was so well received by the membership at large.”
Mick has been a full-time agricultural journalist for more than 30 years, including stints as a Farmers Weekly machinery journalist, consultant editor of Farm Machinery Journal, and even the launch of profi international.
But he has never before attended a Congress.
Mick said: “With this stipend I will not only fulfil my personal and professional ambitions, but also stay true to the goals of Joe’s legacy. I’m really excited about winning this award and looking forward to it already.
“As well as the opportunities that Congress has to offer, I am keen to attend the Agri Media Summit [co-located with the IFAJ Congress] to learn how publishers in the USA are developing their magazines and websites.
“I am also making plans for my own farm visits following the Congress, which will take me to some of the leading spray application and precision farming technology companies, dealers and farmers.”
As a journalist, Mick says he always keen to share what he learns. “It’s why we do the job,” he believes.
“This stipend will enable me to pursue my passion for finding new ideas and expanding my knowledge, while allowing me to share with my readership, guild members and wider public how we can better tackle today’s farming challenges from a global perspective.
“Too many stories from the USA concentrate on what I would call ‘Cor blimey!’ stories – impressive stats and shiny kit.
“I want to scratch beneath the surface, looking at technology, soils and planting, plant protection and crop husbandry, to find out why the farm did this, how it works, how does it justify the costs, what are the benefits – and of course, can it be transferred to the UK?”
Mick says he also wants to use the ‘enormous’ opportunity of being with journalists and editors from around the world to find out more about what is happening in their countries.
“What are the specific challenges facing their readers, and how are their magazines and websites changing the way they communicate?
“I genuinely believe it is possible to learn something new every day and this Congress will be no different. I am curious and I need to communicate. I’m looking forward to sharing my findings.”
Mick is the second BGAJ member to receive a stipend to attend this year’s IFAJ Congress. Farmers Guardian chief reporter Abi Kay will attend as one of 10 Alltech Young Leaders for 2019.
Both will receive fully-funded travel to Minneapolis and registration at Congress, which takes place from 26-31 July. Registration is open until 15 July – see www.ifaj2019.com for details.