The two hour time change has me up early today in Scottsdale, AZ, so I’ve slipped off to our hotel lobby to write. This week Dan and I made a quick trip to the southwest for the 20th annual Agricultural Media Summit, the largest gathering of agriculture’s top writers, editors, photographers, publishers and communication specialists in the U.S.
Our flight Monday from Midway got cancelled due to thunderstorms in the Midwest so our time at the conference is pretty brief. But we’ve been enjoying the get-away and opportunity to catch up with our associates in the ag publishing industry as members of the AAEA-Ag Communicators Network.
Dan and I have both worked in this industry for our nearly-30 year marriage; one of our first trips as a married couple was to the organization’s predecessor conference. Over the years, we’ve each written countless on-farm features stories and we’ve both helped animal health, nutrition, equipment, and crop input companies get their stories out. Formerly, Dan was the editor of a dairy magazine, did client work at a leading ag PR agency, and is now a PR manager at an ag company. Most of my career has been as a freelance writer and independent PR consultant, until recently almost exclusively in the ag field. Today, my main client is outside of agriculture but I still try to write a number of farm magazine stories each year. Both of us love our jobs as ag communicators.
Yesterday at the conference Dan and I took in a few educational sessions and were keen to learn some tips from social media experts. We noticed a slightly changed dynamic since the last time we attended the conference. This year, a new group — the Association for Communication Excellence (ACE) in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Life and Human Sciences (Extension communicators) — joined AAEA, the Livestock Publications Council and Connectiv Agri-Media Committee to draw together approximately 800 people.
We especially enjoyed the inspiring message from luncheon speaker Fernanda Santos. Ms. Santos recently joined the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Arizona State University after 12 years at The New York Times. She wrote “The Fire Line: The Story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots,” which received the Western Writers of America 2017 Spur Award for Best First Nonfiction Book. Her message of embracing teamwork both professionally and personally in a selfie world, resonated.
Now I have to glow a bit because last night was sweet! As part of the conference, AAEA hosts an annual writing contest. Earlier this spring I entered in a few categories and to my pleasant surprise KarenLovesCountry.com won first place for Blogs, Publishing Division. Walking to the front of the room to receive the plaque was a blur. But I heard a snippet of what contest organizer Josh Flint read from the judge’s comments, calling my blog an entertaining mix for those who appreciate a country lifestyle. I was stunned as Gil Gullickson handed me the award but very, very proud that my labor of love earned this recognition from my professional peers. Thank you, AAEA!
But that wasn’t all. I also received a Master Writer Award, a recognition that’s given to honor a person’s ag writing work over time. I couldn’t believe it – that was totally unexpected. Dan and my college friend, Barb Anderson, smiled at me as I rejoined them at our seats. Barb, who earned the Master Writer designation a few years ago, gestured to the shiny plaque in my arms. “It is my most prized possession,” she said. Yes, I agree. Writing is hard work and what an honor to be recognized for a body of it.
I gotta say it has been fun to have some couple time while at a business conference. Dan is a great travel buddy and we enjoy serving as one another’s professional cheerleader.
We snuck out of the conference for a drink and a few minutes to catch up with our emails. Dan was especially fascinated with the diamondback rattlesnake that was at home in the conference hotel lobby, the Westin Kierland Resort. This has been a great short get-away and obvious change of scenery from the Midwest.
I hope you enjoy Karen Loves Country. Please consider following me here, at Facebook KarenLovesCountry or Twitter. Thanks for reading! #AgMediaSummit #WorkBuddies #KarenLovesCountry #MasterWriter #AAEA