Calgary (Rural Roots Canada) – Craig Lester lives and breathes agriculture. So, it’s not a surprise to many that this agriculture journalist, who works in many ag sectors as a volunteer and in his career, was recently honoured as a recipient of the 2021 International Federation of Agricultural Journalists – Alltech International Award for Leadership in Agricultural Journalism. But to Craig, it was a surprise. “Honestly, obviously disbelief to start off with. I’m very humbled, honoured, and emotionally overwhelmed to receive this.”
Lester was selected out of a pool of potential recipients in 55 countries and this year saw the most applications ever received for a chance to be awarded as a recipient for this prestigious award. This is also the first time the award has been given to two recipients at one time. Since so many applications came through, and they couldn’t decide between the two, Lester and Kallee Buchanan from Australia received the award this year. Lester says it’s an honour to share it with Buchanan.
He was also quick to acknowledge others in the industry as well, “There are so many amazing people that work in this field and contributed greatly to the agriculture industry, to the journey of food, and helping people understand where their food comes from.”
The ONE Ideas Conference will be done virtually again this year due to the pandemic. “The conference last year was also virtual. They had 23 thousand people attended their conference last year. A great collection of ideas and people and resources, and I’m just honoured to be a part of that.”
Lester is very involved in his community, and his passion for agriculture shows. He attributes his love of farming to his family. “My role models growing up were my parents and my grandparents. They were the people I really wanted to spend time with, out on the farm, so when I was young, I couldn’t picture myself doing anything else but going out and helping them with the irrigation of the crops, with the cattle. I was an active 4-H member growing up, that instilled me with these values about food and where it comes from.”
“My Dad passed along what a great work ethic looked like and my Mom showed me a world full of inspiration.” He also points to the support his brothers, sister-in-laws, nieces and nephews, extended family and friends give him. “They are always there to support me, I am very fortunate.”
As a young adult, though, he moved away from the family farm and took his love of farming. Lester is an active member in his community, president of the Alberta Farm Writers’ Association, part of the Canadian Farm Writers’ Federation, managing editor of Calgary radio station 660 NEWS, and co-owner of Rural Roots Canada. He is also an active volunteer in his community, giving his time to The Calgary Stampede, Alberta Young Speakers for Agriculture, and Ronald McDonald House. He is also on the planning committee for the 2023 IFAJ World Congress, being held in Alberta.
Lester says his inspiration and energy come from working with others in the industry who share the same values, “I love connecting people, ideas, and resources, and I don’t believe that there’s any place better to do that than in agriculture.”
He’s established an agricultural scholarship and travel bursary at his alma mater, Brooks Composite High School. He says the driving factor behind the scholarship is sustainability in agriculture. “Part of the equation for sustainability is succession. When it comes to empowering the next generation to bring their skills and ideas to the table for the industry, it is imperative.”
So, what’s next for Lester. He says he’s now looking forward to his work on the planning committee for the 2023 IFAJ World Congress. He’s excited to be part of hosting the event and showing off what Alberta and Canada offer in terms of agriculture.
This is the third year the award has been presented. Past winners include Denene Erasmus of South Africa and Joseph Opoku Gakpo of Ghana.