Four Virginia newspapers, one television station capture Farm Bureau Journalism Awards

newspaperThe Tidewater News in Franklin claimed Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s Ishee-Quann Award for Media Excellence, which recognizes the best of all entries in the organization’s annual Journalism Award competition.

The award is named in part for Jeff Ishee, the near-legendary former host of Virginia Farming, which airs in Harrisonburg, Roanoke and Richmond and nationwide on RFD-TV. Ishee now operates On the Farm, a daily, Web-based farm news service.

The late Homer Quann was WSVA radio’s farm news director for several decades and was known as the most dedicated agricultural reporter in Virginia. He constantly reminded listeners that the station’s call letters stood for “Serving Virginia Agriculture.”

The Franklin paper also captured the non-daily category of the awards for the third straight year.

Meanwhile, for the fifth consecutive year, the news team at WHSV TV 3 in Harrisonburg claimed VFBF’s annual award in the television category.

WHSV was joined by co-winners in the daily newspaper category—the Daily News-Record, also in Harrisonburg; and Kevin Green of The Northern Virginia Daily, based in Strasburg.

Cathy Dyson, a veteran reporter at The Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, took home the organization’s Members’ Choice award, which honors media nominated by Farm Bureau members. Winners in this category are selected using the same judging criteria as in other categories.

Honorable mentions were bestowed upon the Rappahannock Record in Kilmarnock andRoanoke Business magazine.

The award winners were announced Dec. 1 during the VFBF Annual Convention in Norfolk.

“We continue to be wowed by the depth of the stories and the professionalism of our media members,” said VFBF President Wayne F. Pryor. “They have covered many of the same issues that Farm Bureau deals with every day, and they’ve even shed new light on some of them. The entries were entertaining, informative and objective.

“It’s reassuring to know that there are still reporters and editors who understand the importance of our $70 billion industry.”

The Tidewater News continued its excellence in farm reporting with “an informative look at the region’s forestry industry where both landowner and general reader could gain valuable information,” the judges wrote. Readers were educated about the different growth periods of hardwoods and pine trees and how they are harvested.

The newspaper explained the different techniques used to harvest and cure peanuts—one of the region’s largest agricultural commodities. It also reported on the state’s 2014 U.S. record peanut yield of 4,350 pounds per acre.

In addition, staff covered the growing agriculture export industry, introduced a new Virginia Cooperative Extension agent, and reported on the growing problem of thefts on the farm, the GMO debate and the generous donation by two peanut grower organizations of peanut butter to the Federation of Virginia Food Banks. There were reports on the cotton crop, the local food movement, the Seed Survivor educational program, and visits by Japanese officials interested in Virginia peanuts, as well as coverage of the region’s corn and soybean crops.

“In addition to timely, informative and balanced agricultural coverage throughout the year,The Tidewater News entries included strong photos and clear writing,” the judges pointed out.

WHSV reported on Virginia’s growing export market and agriculture’s impact in the Shenandoah Valley. They shared where Valley commodities are shipped by listing the top foreign customers, which are China, Canada and Switzerland.

“Channel 3 has no real competition when it comes to reporting agricultural news,” the judges wrote.

The station also reported on VFBF’s 2014 Young Farmers Agricultural Achievement Award winners, Brent and Margaret Arbogast; the Rockingham County Fair; the threat of avian flu; and an elementary school farm tour.

“Their coverage reflects the intense agriculture of the region,” the judges stated. “Their entry exhibited an impressive mix of agricultural topics, proving they understand the industry’s vital importance.”

Green at The Northern Virginia Daily covered “timely topics for readers in this Northern Shenandoah Valley community. He explained the many challenges facing farmers,” the judges wrote. He delved into how Agriculture Literacy Week celebrates both large- and smaller-scale farmers, the concern of poultry producers facing the potential of avian flu, and how biosecurity measures are helpful.

He also wrote about National Dairy Month, how cold temperatures affect cattle, and why the Virginia wine industry must find growers to produce more grapes. In addition, he reported on a new viticulture program working to further boost the wine industry.

His entry also included an uplifting story on the growing demand for agriculture graduates in various work disciplines.

Green did a solid job of covering farm issues “indigenous to his region of the state, like poultry and wine grapes,” the judges wrote. “But he also kept his readers informed of overall agricultural matters like ag literacy and education, the importance of dairy products and many others.”

A team of reporters at the Daily News-Record continued to present its readers with issues pertinent to the farm-rich Shenandoah Valley. They covered an agreement between James Madison University and the state agriculture department to determine whether the hemp plant would be able to produce biofuels and livestock feed.

They reported on coyote funding cuts, new uses for poultry plumage such as bioplastics, and the benefits of no-till planting and cover crops. They also featured a poignant look at children with special needs who exhibit animals at the Rockingham County Fair.

“There’s no question that the Daily News-Record has its hand on the pulse of the agricultural community here, and they shared a variety of traditional and not-so-traditional topics with their readers,” the judges said.

Dyson of The Free Lance-Star included stories about the legendary racehorse Secretariat, who was born and raised at The Meadow Event Park, now home of the State Fair of Virginia, in Caroline County. Titled “Racing Royalty,” the article included comments about the beloved horse and his record-breaking wins in the 1973 Triple Crown. It also focused on the many Thoroughbreds who have his bloodline today.

Dyson also featured a Westmoreland County broccoli grower, his family and the migrant families who work on his farm each year. She included an in-depth look at the growing coyote problem in the region titled “Coyotes making local people howl,” that included informative, eye-opening statistics on the number of livestock killed by the predators.

She wrote about special pumpkin varieties and the many benefits enjoyed by one farmer who encourages and harvests wild plants on her land.


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