2014 award winner James Marshall (left) with work experience host Angus Chalmers of RDP.
Runner-up Fiona Turnbull (right) at the Guild’s 2014 Harvest Lunch, with BGAJ Chairman Jane Craigie.
The 2014 Training Award course members at John Deere Limited’s headquarters at Langar.
Twenty-seven year old James Marshall from Somerset is the 2014 winner of the annual British Guild of Agricultural Journalists Training Award, sponsored by John Deere Limited. This year's runner-up is Fiona Turnbull, a sheep farmer and part-time farming columnist from Kinross in Scotland, who won her place on the course through the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists’ 2014 Congress bursary, sponsored by Quality Meat Scotland.
James Marshall grew up in rural Somerset and has been writing freelance articles on farming for various regional newspapers and magazines in his spare time, while working for an academic book publisher. Since winning the award, James has changed career and from late November 2014 will be working for Devon-based specialist food and agriculture PR agency Reverberate.
“Before applying for the course I had been looking to move away from my marketing based job in the publishing industry and gain employment within the agricultural PR sector,” he says. “I believe that attending the training course and winning the award played a significant part in securing the job offer from Reverberate PR, and I am very grateful to the Guild and to John Deere for giving me the opportunity.”
James, who spent his course work experience with another PR agency, RDP Advertising & Marketing in Gloucestershire, won the award for his article on the government’s approach to the threat posed by African swine fever, which was published by Farmers Weekly Interactive. Fiona’s article, advising on how lamb producers can earn better returns from their flock, was also published, by her work experience host newspaper The Courier in Dundee.
This year’s entries were judged by specialist training consultant and main course lecturer David Mascord and freelance Louise Impey, the BGAJ’s Awards Secretary. James received his winner’s cheque for £250, a framed certificate and the John Deere trophy at RDP’s offices, while Fiona was presented with her runner's-up framed certificate and a cheque for £100 at the Guild’s Harvest Lunch at The Stationers’ Hall in London in October.
The 2014 course took place as usual at John Deere Limited's UK headquarters in July. For the final award, 11 course members were asked to write a news story on the subject of their choice, preferably based on work completed during their work experience placement. This year's work experience hosts were BBC Gardeners’ World, British Farmer & Grower, The Courier, DairyCo, Farmers Guardian, Garden Answers, Horticulture Week, RDP Advertising & Marketing, South East Farmer and Western Daily Press.
This was the 22nd John Deere Training Award, which started in 1991 (one year was missed in 2001 due to the foot & mouth disease outbreak, and one in 2003 due to a lack of suitable applications). 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.
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, 30 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).
• Copies of the two winning articles can be seen here. For further details of the 2015 course, please contact Steve Mitchell of ASM Public Relations Ltd – telephone + 44 (0)24 7630 8912 or +44 (0)7717 213182, or e-mail email@example.com