Two Canadian agricultural journalists are bringing home first place wins in key categories of this year's North American Association of Agricultural Journalists annual competition.

A Manitoba Co-operator writer has earned a top award for agricultural writing.

Shannon VanRaes has won the feature category of this year’s North American Association of Agricultural Journalists’ writing competition. VanRaes, who ventured into the ag beat three years ago, says it’s an honour to be recognized by her peers.

“Wonderful reporting work, particularly because it’s on an issue that has humiliated the Canadian government. We all know how difficult it can be to produce a story when the government wants it silenced, and I admire the grief that Shannon must have endured during her work,” noted the category’s judge, Richard Estrada, of VanRaes’ winning story, “Big dreams, big dollars lead to big trouble.” The feature looked at a hemp marketing venture in Waskada, Manitoba that failed a year after receiving millions in government funding.

VanRaes noted that it took months to get some of the people to talk about the situation. “It wasn’t a fast story by any means but it was a slow burn that was pretty rewarding in the end.” There’s a lot of interest in growing hemp on the Prairies, she adds. “It’s something people see as a real money maker,” but how good the return being received on their investments “is often up for debate.”

Several other Canadians were named in the awards, which will be presented at the association’s annual meeting April 6 to 8 in Washington, D.C. They include:

•    News: Mary MacArthur, The Western Producer, honourable mention;
•    Editorial: Laura Rance, Manitoba Co-operator, second place;
•    Column: Ed White, The Western Producer, first place and Laura Rance, Winnipeg Free Press, second place

Contest co-ordinator David Hendee of the Omaha World-Herald, says entries for the contest were up this year and totalled 260.

A full list of winners appears here:

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