Joe Watson's Blog

Monday, January 26, 2009

And finally for today

Council has three vacancies on it. If you've a burning desire to help make a difference and build on ongoing work then we'd be delighted to hear from you.
The job involves attending the four council meetings this year as well as helping at the events the Guild organises for members.
Oh and don't forget the homework between council meetings as this is essential in driving the organisation forward. All very well turning up at four meetings a year, but unless work gets done between them precious little is achieved.
Anyone interested – and I hope there are many of you – should speak to secretary Don Gomery. Details at

France here I come

Beware if you are in Lyon this week. Your chairman has lost so much weight in recent months that he can get into the kilt he bought for his 21st birthday but which he has been unable to get into for more than a decade.
I'm off to the French city with Quality Meat Scotland and Scottish Development International on a mission to the Bocuse d'Or, the world's culinary grand prix, and where they will be serving up Aberdeen-Angus beef from Scotland.
As a proud Scot the seafood dishes in the contest, sadly come from Norway. Then again the cod and prawns will be coming from the same North Sea that we share with the Norwegians.


I'm never one who has been happy with technology, even though I've lived with it for the near 40 years that I have been on this earth.
I use Google alerts to alert me to any happening stories on groups, individuals and organisations around the world. Once you've entered the info Google then automatically fires you off an e-mail as soon as something has been posted about the group, individual or organisation you are monitoring.
I have to say that it's great when it works, but it becomes somewhat tedious after a while trying to sort out BSE in its mad cow form from the the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) reports that share the same initials.
I've one alert on a Scottish businessman that keeps firing me reports on the English cricket side, is there any game in the world more boring than cricket; rounders with a set of sticks?
Still Google alerts are worth it. If you're a journalist can you afford to be without them, I would ask?


Are you one of the millions who are on Facebook? If so, you'll find me, the chairman of the IFAJ and a host of other agri hacks from around the globe.
There's an IFAJ group on Facebook that currently has 68 members.


I am tickled pink at having been asked a couple weeks ago to contribute a think piece to a series of essays being published by the Smith Institute.
The invitation came via Agriculture and Horticulture Development chairman John Bridge.
The theme of the essays in on Feeding Britain.
They asked me, as Guild chairman, to give up to 2,000 words on my view as to the adequacy of the UK’s current policy framework for sustainable, secure and safe food supplies for the British population.
I've now delivered the piece, but deeply question whether the UK actually has a policy. There's been lots of soundbites and reports, but precious little by way of action south of the border.
Contrast the position with that of Scotland which is developing a national food and drink policy to secure the sector. The Scottish Government has also repeatedly said the focus has to be on productive agriculture, rather than the John Constable-type industry that Defra seems to desire.
The essays are published in March. Happy to send my view to anyone who wants to read it.

Membership survey

I make no apology for calling a special council meeting in November to discuss your responses to the membership survey.
The questionnaire was long needed to provide council with a strategic direction. We had a stimulating day in which there was a lot of talk. Action has yet to follow in most instances but here's a brief summary of what we looked at. If you want to know more about anything, then please contact me.
The clarion call for a photographic competition has been addressed. It is now up and running with entries due to close on January 31. Thanks particularly to Theresa Eveson for progressing this. More details at
We will also be relaunching the horticulture award. I would like this done before I step down in March, but am wholly dependent on others who tell me everything is organised and ready for it to be relaunched. I've been hearing these words for months though and quite frankly am getting rather dismayed, annoyed and frustrated at the lack of action. Your chairman has made his views abundantly clear that he wants action, not fobbed off with yet more excuses.
We have reviewed the agm and downgraded it. It will now be held before the council meeting on March 13. The attendance in recent years has been dismal. There is no lunch so if you want to come along you are more than welcome.
A new professional development event is under consideration. The likelihood is that it will be held somewhere in Yorkshire. This would include seminars for our PR members on a range of key issues, as well as similar sessions for our journalist members on standards, technology, etc. I have been left to progress this one and am rather keen to hear views on the range of seminars you might want. It would be a day-long event, and include the agm. Focus is on holding it in the spring. The one thing that came through from the survey was you all recognised the benefits of Guild membership and the networking that this allows.
We're also looking at better marketing ourselves. There are many agri hacks out there who are not members. Why is the question I ask? £52 a year equates to a £1 a week and for that you become part of a global network of contacts and story sources. This exercise involves us looking at better quality promotional material extolling the benefits of membership.
We too want to look at raising our profile so we've asked council members to go out and ask if other any groups in agriculture can see benefits from joining forces. We've already done it with the Royal Show conferences, but there is a feeling much more could be done to get the Guild's name in lights at the top of industry and for those there to recognise the real benefits of being involved in events with us.
The credit crunch may well have an impact on what we do. Council has already agreed to meet less frequently to save costs. Four meetings will be held in 2009. This decision alone has helped us keep the membership fee at £52 for the year ahead. Direct debits will be collected in February.
I also don't feel we can justify an increase in membership until council is seen to be delivering more value to members. The planned new event of continuing professional development workshops is one that I see considerable benefits. Yes you're likely to be charged to attend, but I would hope to keep this to a minimum. Many members tell me they can't afford to attend events; this is, however, one that you could write off as a business expense, so no more excuses on that front that it means a day out of the office and losing earning potential. This event would be designed to boost your earning potential.