This year’s winner of the British Guild of Agricultural Journalists’ Journalism Training Award sponsored by John Deere is Sarah Beard from Worcestershire, whose course work experience placement was with Farmers Guardian.
Sarah qualified in 2010 with a PG Diploma in Broadcast Journalism from Birmingham City University, following a BA degree in Business & Tourism at the University of Lincoln, but has more recently been working for an estate agency. She is now looking to kickstart her journalism career by writing about the countryside and rural life.
Guild member Ruth Wills came a close second. Ruth has been working since May 2018 as an editorial and PR assistant at Agri-hub, the specialist agrimedia network, having come from a sheep farm in Cornwall with a degree in Rural Business Management.
This is Agri-hub’s third John Deere Training Award in four years, following Melanie Jenkins’ and Charlotte Cunningham’s successes in 2015 and 2017 respectively.
The other work experience hosts this year were Farmers Weekly, FarmSmart Publishing and the Countryman’s Weekly.
For the final award, the 17 course members were asked to write a news story of no more than 500 words on the subject of their choice.
Entries were judged by specialist training consultant and main course lecturer David Mascord and guest speaker Tim Relf, who freelances for The Operative Word, the media company he founded with his wife Isabel Davies.
David commented in his summing-up: “It was a close-run competition this year. Several entries impressed us, and after much discussion it came down to the final two, which were both strong news stories.
“Ruth’s piece, on the stress suffered by farmers as a result of the summer drought, has since been published by Farmers Weekly.
“This offered some useful practical advice in addition to providing a solid news angle, and Tim and I felt it was very good piece overall.
“Sarah’s article, on criticisms of the Countryside Stewardship payments, was written for Farmers Guardian and we judged it to be a very deserving winner.
“It did an effective job of putting a human face on the issue, and used quotes from farmers and the NFU well in order to tell the story.”
Sarah received a winner’s cheque from John Deere for £250, plus a framed certificate and the John Deere trophy, while Ruth also received a certificate plus the runner’s-up cheque for £100.
Both were presented with their awards by Guild chairman (and guest speaker on the course) Catherine Linch of Pinstone Communications and Guild president Lord Curry of Kirkharle, at the Guild’s Harvest Lunch at Painters’ Hall in London in October.
This was the Guild’s 26th John Deere Training Award, which started in 1991.
The course is based on two days of lectures on the basics of writing news and features and interviewing techniques, held at John Deere Limited’s UK headquarters in July.
It was followed by three or more days of practical work experience with a range of farming and horticultural journals or communications businesses.
The John Deere Training Award is designed to support the Guild in one of its principal aims – that of promoting schemes for the provision of suitable entrants into agricultural and horticultural journalism.
Since it began, scores of course members have found employment as in-house or freelance journalists on national farming and horticultural magazines or websites and with specialist PR companies – not including those already employed when they attended the course.
Photo: 2018 award winner Sarah Beard (centre left) and runner-up Ruth Wills (centre right) with Guild chairman Catherine Linch (left) and Guild president Lord Curry of Kirkharle (right)