Scotland plays host to 200 international ag journalists

Agriculture is one of the few industries that is common to nearly every country in the world. Climate, crop species, livestock breeds, agronomy techniques and the regulatory framework may vary hugely, but there are few countries without any form of farming industry.

As the industry becomes increasingly global, interest in how things are done abroad grows. Farmers have always been keen to see what is going on in their neighbours’ fields and they increasingly want to know about what is happening in other countries. It’s a chance to see if there are lessons to be learned for their own businesses and see the factors that might influence the market over the coming months and years.

An interesting insight

Bringing so many journalists together inevitably means they swap stories, techniques and ideas. It’s fascinating hearing from farm journalists in Africa, for example, who barely use the written word in the conventional sense of journalism.

Sometimes it’s because the majority of their audiences are illiterate – radio is therefore the dominant form of communication. Many of them also use the mobile phone, and text messaging for communication – Africa never bothered to build conventional landline networks, instead launching straight into mobile telecommunications. Consequently most of Africa has better mobile phone coverage than many areas of rural England.

To help meet this thirst for information, the British Guild of Agricultural Journalists will next month play host to the annual International Federation of Journalists’ Congress Tour.

The event will offer 205 agricultural journalists from nearly 40 countries a unique insight into the ability and creativity of British farmers.

Who is attending?

The delegates, who are coming from as far afield as China, Africa and Australasia, are agricultural journalists, editors, broadcasters, communicators and photographers. Collectively, their output reaches a potential audience of more than 40 million people.

What will they see?

Organisers have chosen the theme “Innovations from a Small Island” to show how the UK, a small island nation, is rising to the challenge of feeding the world in the 21st century.

For those with the stamina to cope with it, congress will last for 12 days and include pre- and post-congress visits. However, the main event will take place in the Aberdeen area from 4-7 September. Delegates attending the main conference tour will be able to pick from a variety of farm visits. The themes are:

Facts and stats

  • 205 people attending
  • 37 countries represented
  • Collective worldwide audience – to which they will report on British agriculture – is more than 40 million
  • Includes agricultural journalists, reporters, broadcasters, editors and photographers
  • Organised by the British Guild of Agricultural Journalists
  • Produce at all meals served to delegates will be British, Scottish, English or Welsh – showcasing the very best of our country’s agriculture and food and drink industries
  • Arable and whisky
  • Beef and red meat
  • Market makers: field-scale vegetables, specialist crops and fruit
  • Field crops and potatoes
  • Diversification, forestry and energy.

The pre-congress tour will be based in London and the south-east of England and includes a visit to the Farmers Weekly offices. The post-congress tour is also planned for the Midlands and Wales, which will take in a visit to the Prince of Wales’ Duchy Home Farm.

How will the farming industry benefit?

Organisers hope the event will provide a significant opportunity to promote the great strengths of British farming and the unique and highly exportable qualities of the nation’s food production on a global scale.

“We cannot overestimate the potential value of this event as a showcase for all that is good about our food and farming industries, as well as our unique heritage and culture,” said BGAJ chairman Jane Craigie.

“Delegates will enjoy a packed congress, visiting research centres, model farms, renewable energy projects and the finest food and drink production facilities we have to offer. They will also sample the renowned British hospitality during an experience that we expect to educate, entertain and live long in the memory.

“There will be representation from countries including India, the Americas, China, Africa, Australasia and South East Asia, as well as many from Europe, so there really will be global reach.”

Who has organised the event?

The event, which has taken more than two years to put together, has been organised by members of the British Guild of Agricultural Journalists, an organisation that counts among its membership more than 500 reporters, editors, photographers, communicators and broadcasters. Key people involved in pulling the event together include guild chairman Jane Craigie (Jane Craigie Marketing), congress chairman Adrian Bell (Whisper.pr), event organiser Caroline Millar (GoRural Scotland), honorary congress president John Cameron and the late Joe Watson, formerly farming editor of the Aberdeen Press and Journal.

Who is supporting the venture?

Sponsors include Massey Ferguson, Perkins, Waitrose, Monsanto, Yara, Harbro, SRUC, ANM Group, Scottish Enterprise, Stagecoach, the Aberdeen Angus, Highland Cattle and Simmental breed societies, plus Aberdeen City Council, Angus Council and Aberdeenshire Council.

Inputs put to best use

John Gordon will host one of the visits on the beef and red meat tour. He is a fourth-generation owner-occupier at Wellheads Farm, which is a traditional upland farm with cattle, sheep and about 200ha of arable ground. He runs 220 mostly black Limousin-cross cows, which he puts to Charolais bulls to produce quality, commercial beef stores.

The farm also has 860 cross-bred ewes that are grazed throughout the year, receiving silage during winter months (except for a short period of housing pre-lambing). Not all of Wellheads has the same productive potential and Mr Gordon is clear that there is a need to target inputs towards the land that will give the best return. His philosophy is that he is in it for the long haul and he believes strongly in the need to maintain productivity on the farm.

By using GPS technology, inputs are being placed where they can work best. The business also grows brassica catch crops in the short window post silage.

John-and-Euan-Gordon

A green future for whisky

Corskie Farm is part of a 1,200ha arable and livestock family farm partnership – run by Jimmy and Nan Green, and their son, Iain – which will feature on the arable and whisky tour. It is home to the 510-head Corskie herd of pedigree Simmentals, widely recognised as one of the top Simmental herds in the UK. The farm also runs 500 Mule and Mule cross Texel ewes, is home to a 380-sow indoor breeding herd, which produces breeding gilts for Rattlerow and grows 420ha of spring barley, which is supplied to the whisky trade for malting. Other cropping includes winter barley, winter wheat and spring oats.

The business has secured planning permission for 100kW of solar PVs on a new shed. It is also involved in environmental work – 7,000m of hedgerow has been planted and 15,000m of fencing put alongside watercourses with the aim of improving the farm and wildlife habitats.

Iain Green 

Get involved

Farmers Weekly will bring you reports from some of the farms visited by the delegation. Business reporter Jez Fredenburgh will be taking part in the main congress tour and will be using social media to share some of the highlights. You can follow her on Twitter @overthefarmgate