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World’s farm journalists come to Canada

It’s finally here.

The International Federation of Agriculture Journalists (IFAJ) 2011 congress is now underway with several pre-congress events taking place in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.

Together with my colleague Owen Roberts (@theurbancowboy), I’m co-chairing this gathering of about 260 farm journalists from 30 countries around the world, which is taking place in Ontario this week.

The last time Canada hosted this annual conference for agricultural writers was in 1967, so this is a big deal for us.

It’s our chance to show off what Canadian agriculture is all about to fellow farm writers, agricultural communicators and public relations specialists – the same way I’ve been lucky enough to experience food and farming in Japan, Austria, Slovenia, Slovakia, United States, Belgium and Luxembourg at this same event over the last several years.

There’s a group of delegates touring British Columbia at the moment with BC farm writers Tamara Leigh (@Shiny_Bird) and David Schmidt before they’ll join us at our main congress location here in Guelph. There are also a few adventurers in Alberta on a small private tour hosted by Janet Kanters (@JanetK), a former president of the Canadian Farm Writers’ Federation.

The main hub of activity, however, in advance of formal congress kick-off is a specialized leadership and professional development program currently underway in Guelph for a small group of journalists from developing countries, the Master Class, and the winners of the 2011 Alltech-IFAJ Young Leader award.

Later on in the week, we’ll be going on tour across Ontario with buses of journalists heading towards Belleville and Prince Edward County; Stratford and Huron County and Leamington and Chatham-Kent to learn about dairy, beef, pork, field vegetables, grain and greenhouse production, alternative energy, wine, cider and so much more. We’ll all meet up again in Niagara Falls for a final day of speakers who will address the sustainability story.

A small core, organizing committee first started working on this congress in early 2007 – for us, it’s a little hard to believe that September 2011 is finally here and the event we’ve spent four years planning for is underway. Thanks to everyone who has supported us in any way to help us get to this point; we’re looking forward to a fabulous week!

Updates on congress activities will be posted on www.ifaj2011.com. You can also follow the congress on Twitter via #ifaj.

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