Holistic health reporting jobs and assignments are increasing in the “farm to fork arena in Sacramento and Davis regional areas as organic farmers frequently turning to agricultural journalism publications online and/or in print or multimedia to communicate what’s happening locally with farming.
Fields that need to be covered by investigative reporters include gluten sensitivity and its prevalence among the homeless and the effects on the mind of nutritional deficiencies. Also writing about holistic health within the field of agricultural journalism might include investigating food quality and accessibility or delayed reaction brain allergies. There’s the need for health services among the homeless to cover, and with more concentration on farm-to-fork issues, GMO compared to organic foods such as issues and costs to be researched.
Agricultural journalism that does focus on the holistic family health aspect also includes news of the Central Valley’s environment from air and water pollution news to conditions of soil and who’s getting grants. The growing need emphasizes the work of agricultural and environmental journalists in business, research, and the media. Agricultural journalism is a broader field that also includes nutrition communications.
Agricultural journalists also cover health-related news such as various outbreaks related to food such as a salmonella or E-coli outbreak. You could also work for the government writing and communicating the news on these types of topics. See samples of articles at the Agricultural Communications Documentation Center. Agriculture is a bigger business than a niche within it devoted to nutrition. Therefore, the journalism opportunities in agricultural and environmental journalism are wider.
Here’s how to turn a holistic health interest into a career in agricultural journalism
If you enjoy writing about the environment, plants, food, and genetics and either enjoy broadcast media or digital media combined with an interest in farming, there’s a field of journalism open called agricultural and environmental journalism. You might combine a major in plant science and food science with journalism.
For example, here in Sacramento and Davis, you might cover stories of who received grants. See the June 17, 2011 Sacramento Bee article, “UC Davis professors win $1 million grants to boost crop production.” Or see the article, “100 years of breeding – Seed Biotechnology Center – University of California, Davis.”
As newspapers and TV stations merge or disappear, niche journalism in certain areas of science research receiving grants such as the field of agricultural communication and research. For example, at UC Davis, two scientists have won multimillion-dollar awards to continue research aimed at boosting food-crop production.
That’s a story you might cover as an agricultural and environmental journalists. At UC Davis, the awards to the two scientists come from a new $75 million grant program established by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. This year’s awards to 15 scientists across the nation are the first offered by the fund.
The UC Davis recipients are Simon Chan, an assistant professor in the Department of Plant Biology, and Jorge Dubcovsky, a professor in the Department of Plant Sciences. Each is expected to receive about $1 million a year for five years to support their research. The money will cover their salaries and research expenses, relieving them from pressure to seek other grants.
Agricultural journalism includes holistic health when focused on farm to fork conditions
One aspect you may choose to cover in holistic health within agricultural journalism is the fact of nutritional issues affecting the homeless of Sacramento area nearby areas, the fact that most homeless people are being fed pastries and bologna sandwiches during the day and may not be absorbing the nutrients they need to get out of being homeless and obtain job skills in areas that are seeking help.
You might check out the article in the current issue of the alternative health magazine Townsend Letter, by Ann S. Petersen, “‘Why don’t they just get a job?’ Potential solutions for the chronically homeless.” The article emphasizes nutritional deficiencies and their effect on the mind and food accessibility and quality. It’s on pages 84 -91.
Or if you focus on what’s happening at U.C. Davis in plant biology, What’s news about this story is that Dr. Chan will use the grant funds to continue investigating plant breeding. His lab a few years ago discovered ways to breed plants with genes from only one parent, and to clone plants as seeds. He plans to expand this work to crop plants, such as tomatoes and Chinese cabbage, that take longer to grow. You may want to write about crop plants and blend agricultural journalism with holistic health news. One area is writing about GMO wheat or tomatoes compared to organic vegetables and grains.
You might also cover a story on genetically-modified wheat or tomatoes, taking sides pro or con or remaining neutral and reporting the facts and other news without offering an opinion one way or the other. For example, at UC Davis, Dubcovsky will continue developing new genetic resources to improve wheat, one of the most widely grown cereal crops. The Dubcovsky lab has identified and cloned genes involved in disease resistance, protein content, and flowering and frost tolerance.
Ethnobotany is another field within agricultural journalism and holistic health news
Let’s say you enjoy plant biology but want to major in journalism and are seeking a career as an agricultural and nutritional journalist. You could major in science writing and minor in plant biology, food science, nutrition, or ethnobotany. Another area for investigative reporting is biofuel and world markets.
Or what if your enthusiasm is to write about farming, but don’t want to train as a farmer and work the fields yourself? If you’re interested in communicating about science, agriculture, health, or the environment, Agricultural Journalism (also known as Agricultural Communication) is a real career with a professional association.
Check out the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists. The International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ) is a non-political, professional association for agricultural journalists in 29 countries. IFAJ supports and encourages the practice of agricultural journalism in countries embracing freedom of the press.
Agriculture is an evolving industry that provides the most basic needs – food, fibre and energy – for a growing population. In many parts of the earth farmers play a key role in populating and maintaining the countryside. Providing helpful information to the world’s farmers, as well as reporting new trends to consumers, is critical to the future of the planet.
The world’s agricultural media – in newspapers, magazines, radio, broadcast and Internet – report on dozens of issues daily, weekly and monthly:
- Local production, marketing practices and farm profitability
- Biofuel, globalization and world markets
- Trade and farm policy issues
- The increasing need to drive down costs and lift production
- Increasing consumer pressure for safe food and sustainable production practices
- New technologies and best practices
- The challenge to feed the world’s poor
- Better environmental sustainability
From Africa to America, from Europe to Japan, agricultural journalists tell the world about agriculture, including nutrition. They are journalists, editors, photographers, designers and communicators involved in national associations of agricultural communicators in the free world. Their audiences are farmers, consumers, nutritionists, physicians, dietitians, plant scientists, and geneticists.
You can major in Agricultural Journalism at various colleges where you’d take courses in news writing, advertising, broadcast news, photojournalism, and editing and design. And you’d also take courses in plant science and/or animal science, agricultural economics, biochemistry and/or forestry. Upon completion of the major program, you’ll receive a bachelor’s of science degree.
That’s when you can look for work communicating about the environment, agriculture, nutrition, food science, plant science, ethnobotany, or farming. You don’t need graduate work to write about agriculture and the environment for the media.
A major in Agricultural Journalism prepares you for a variety of career opportunities in agriculture, business, and science. Depending on the journalism courses you take, you can apply for editorial positions with farm journals, daily and weekly newspapers, or in the radio, television, advertising, and public relations industries.
A major in journalism and a minor in food science directs you towards writing about green health, nutrition, and food-related subjects as would a minor in consumer sciences. You can also work for non-specialized newspapers and non-farm radio and television stations. The agriculture background helps Agricultural Journalism majors organize and transmit scientific and technical information in a way that regular folks can understand.
The whole idea is to find your passion in the science you enjoy communicating, whether it’s food science or plant biology or environmental and agricultural issues. Then you focus on writing or broadcasting as a journalist or commentator on the topic.
Either you’d be writing and speaking or writing and researching. The focus of a science writer is to make technical information easily understood by the public who reads the type of material about which you’re writing or broadcasting. Decide who you want to write for, the public in general or for scientists? Then choose your niche. The point is as journalism jobs shrink, agricultural journalists have a niche specialty serving scientists, farmers, nutritionists, and international environmentalists.
What’s the job outlook for careers in agricultural communications?
Nutrition communicators focus on writing about nutrition, ethnobotany, plant sciences, and dietetics. But agricultural communicators write more widely with more versatility about environmental science and agriculture, including plant genetics. Agricultural journalism is broader than nutrition writing because it more often includes business in agriculture as well as science research.
According to Wikipedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agricultural_communication Agricultural communication (or agricultural communications) is a field of study and work that focuses on communication about agricultural related information among agricultural stakeholders and between agricultural and non-agricultural stakeholders. It is done formally and informally by agricultural extension and is considered a subset of science communication. However, it has evolved into its own professional field.
Agricultural communicators are science communicators that deal exclusively with the diverse, applied science and business that is agriculture. According to the Wikipedia site, An agricultural communicator is “expected to bring with him or her a level of specialized knowledge in the agricultural field that typically is not required of the mass communicator.”
As a journalist focusing on agricultural communication, you’d cover the topics of food, feed, fiber, renewable energy, nutrition, natural resource management, rural development and the business of agriculture and environmental sciences, locally and/or globally. Agricultural journalism is broader than nutrition writing or food writing because it spans all participants, from scientists to consumers – and all stages of those enterprises, from agricultural research and production to processing, marketing, consumption, nutrition and health, according to the Wikipedia site definition of agricultural communications.
Why this field of journalism is growing while other areas of journalism are shrinking is because the job market for agricultural communicators is broad, while nutrition writing is limited to food science, dietetics, and some areas of ethnobotany. Agricultural journalism includes writing about crop and edible plant genetics, the science side and the business or economics side of farming and environmental science. Cable TV has several agricultural-related programs.
Holistic health media and agricultural journalism specializations also can lead to a career as a grant writer for research centers and universities
A person trained in agricultural journalism also can work as a grant writer for universities, schools, nonprofit agencies, the government, or research-oriented businesses and any other enterprise that hires freelance or staff grant writers. To see a sample of a typical subject that you might be writing about as an agricultural journalist or nutrition communicator, see the food science-related article, “Consumer perceptions of food-related risks.” International Journal of Food Science and Technology, 41(2), 135-146. Authors are, Tucker, M., Whaley, S., & Sharp, J. (2006).
Recent research indicates that the majority of respondents in nineteen of thirty-four countries feel their food is less safe than 10 years ago. Concerns over food safety may result in elevated levels of perceived risk, particularly when fuelled by intense media coverage.
Check out the field of consumer perceptions of food-related risks in reporting
The purpose of the study, “Consumer perceptions of food-related risks,” was to assess Ohioans’ perceptions of various food safety risks and to identify factors influencing risk judgments. Mail survey data are reported for 4014 respondents with a total response rate of 56%. Findings reveal moderate perceived levels of risk for the food safety items assessed.
Pesticide residues in food and contamination of drinking water generated the highest levels of perceived risk, while mad cow disease and genetically modified foods generated the lowest levels of perceived risk. Regression results indicate that attitude toward biotechnology was the strongest predictor of perceived risk, followed by perceptions of media system dependency. Findings from this research can assist food safety specialists in developing more effective education and risk communication programs for target audiences.
Agricultural communication careers can include holistic health investigative reporting
A growing market for agricultural journalists and broadcasters led to the establishment of agricultural journalism and agricultural communication academic disciplines. According to the Wikipedia site, the job market for agricultural communicators includes the following types of careers:
- Farm broadcasting
- Journalists and editors of agricultural/rural magazines and newspapers
- Communication specialist, public relations practitioner, or Web developer for agricultural commodity organizations, businesses, non-profits
- Sales representative for agricultural business
- Science journalist
- Land-grant university communication specialist
- Public relations or advertising for firms that specialize in or have agricultural clients
For more information on careers in agricultural journalism, see the following articles or books:
- Treise, D., & Weigold, M. F. (2002). Advancing Science Communication — Science Communication: A survey of science communicators. Science Communication, 23(3), 310-322.
- Boone, K., Meisenbach, T., & Tucker, M. (2000). Agricultural communications: Changes and challenges, Iowa State University Press.
- Journal of Applied Communications (Index).