Lifetime Achievement Award Canadian Farm Writers’ Federation

by Janet Kanters & Allison Finnamore

At the CFWF annual conference, held in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, IFAJ president Owen Roberts was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award. He was recognized for his complete and total dedication to agricultural journalism and communications and for ‘pushing the envelope’ when it comes to new ideas and endeavours.

Early on in his involvement with the CFWF, Owen took an active interest in the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists and his willingness to become involved helped boost interest in IFAJ among Canada’s farm writers.

Today, Owen serves as the IFAJ president, the first Canadian to be elected to the IFAJ Presidium. Prior to his presidential role, he served as IFAJ secretary general and vice-president, and is also a past president of CFWF.

Amongst his accomplishments, Owen was a moving force in generating the legacy funds from the 2011 IFAJ congress in Canada, of which he was co-chair of the organizing committee, that led to the creation of the CFWF Professional Development fund; today, members of CFWF can apply for financial support for individual professional development activities they might otherwise not be able to undertake. It’s also worth noting that Canadian farm writers’ ongoing enthusiasm for IFAJ, stimulated by Owen, shows no sign of abating as Canada has once again volunteered to host the IFAJ congress in 2023 in Calgary.

Today, the IFAJ is a vibrant organization of 5,000 professionals from 50-member countries from around the world and agricultural journalists and communicators around the world have benefitted from IFAJ initiatives Owen helped establish. These include the popular IFAJ Alltech Young Leaders program that recognizes leadership potential in young journalists by bringing them together for two days of training in advance of the annual congress, and the IFAJ Corteva Master Class initiative that offers training for journalists from non-IFAJ member countries.

Outside of CFWF and IFAJ, Owen is adjunct professor in the Department of Animal Biosciences and Director of Research Communications at the University of Guelph. As well, he serves as editor of the University’s research magazine. Owen created the popular student-research writing program, Students Promoting Awareness in Research Knowledge (SPARK), which has been running for over 25 years. Many of Owen’s former students are active in journalism, communications and marketing in Ontario and beyond. Owen holds a Bachelor of Arts (communications) from the University of Windsor, a Master of Science (rural extension studies) from the University of Guelph and a PhD in agriculture education and communications from Texas A&M University.

Owen’s decades-long commitment to the profession of agricultural journalism, to Canadian farm writers and to the IFAJ have made a difference in the careers of many agricultural writers and communicators in Canada and around the globe.