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Agriculture student wins Guild’s John Deere Training Award

Twenty year old Louise Hartley from Clitheroe in Lancashire is the 2012 winner of the annual British Guild of Agricultural Journalists Training Award, sponsored by John Deere Limited. This year's runner-up is 25 year old Royal Agricultural College graduate Dominic Kirby, from Northamptonshire.

Like last year’s winner Matthew Sharp, Louise is studying agriculture at Newcastle University, and is due to graduate in 2013. She spent most of the summer doing work experience on Farmers Guardian, and has also written articles for Dairy Cow Management magazine.

Louise’s winning article on the recent dairy crisis was featured on the Farmers Guardian website and generated a lot of debate among readers. News editor Ben Briggs said: “Louise showed great journalistic nous to inform me about this story and it really added to FG's coverage of the unfolding saga.

“She has an excellent writing style and an ear for great quotes and these are two of the main attributes I look for in journalists, be they starting out in the industry or more established. Just as important are her tenacity in seeking out news and willingness to deal with people at any level in the industry, be they union leaders, politicians or grassroots farmers. Her winning article showed her strengths as a reporter, which are precisely the ones we valued during her time here at FG.”

Dominic spent his work experience placement with Farmers Weekly, and his runner’s-up article, published in FW, was on the threat to the British pig industry posed by spiralling costs of production. He has also contributed to Three Counties Farmer, written a blog for the Farmers Weekly FWi website and completed work experience this year at The Field, The Garden and The Wilts & Gloucestershire Standard.

Louise received her winner’s cheque for £250, a framed certificate and the John Deere trophy from Gordon Day, John Deere Limited’s marketing manager, at the Guild’s Harvest Lunch at The Stationers’ Hall in London in October. Dominic received a runner's-up framed certificate and a cheque for £100.

The course took place as usual at John Deere Limited's UK headquarters, in July. This year’s 10 award entrants were set the task of writing a news story on the subject of their choice, preferably based on work done during their work experience placement. The judges were specialist training consultant and main course lecturer David Mascord, and the Press & Journal’s agriculture editor (and past Guild chairman) Joe Watson.

Both agreed that the winning stories were the stand-out entries, with Joe Watson commenting: “The dairy story was to the point, straight talking and tight. It contained good quotes, and to me was an excellent read. The pig yarn was a well written and informative story; it explained what the problems are and had good quotes in it.”

This was the 20th John Deere Training Award, which started in 1991 (one year having been missed in 2001 due to the foot & mouth disease outbreak, and one in 2003 due to a shortage of candidates). The course is based on two days of lectures on the basics of writing news and features and interviewing techniques, followed by three or more days of practical work experience with a range of farming and horticultural journals or communications businesses.

This year's work experience hosts to the course members were Amateur Gardening, British Farmer & Grower, The Dundee Courier, Farmers Guardian, Farmers Weekly, Farming Life, 5M Publishing, The Garden and Horticulture Week. Louise commented after her placement: “The course has been invaluable, not only in providing technical skills, but also in meeting other young people from across the country who are in interested in the same career as myself.”

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, 23 course members have found employment as journalists on national farming and horticultural magazines or websites and with specialist PR companies (not including those already employed when they attended the course).


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