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Farm Journal Media CEO outlines the importance of service journalism

As CEO of Farm Journal Media, Andy Weber is at the helm of a business-to-business media company that regularly practices service journalism. Weber visited Medill as the 2012 McAllister Top Manager on Monday to share what his company is doing to become a leader in advocacy for important issues related to the agricultural industry, like family farm succession plans and fighting world hunger.

The national leader in agricultural media, 134-year-old Farm Journal Media is a fully integrated multi-media company. Weber said Farm Journal is the third most recognized agricultural brand – John Deere is the first – and having that kind of position in the farming community makes it imperative that the company spearhead charitable efforts.

“Farm Journal has a heritage of engagement,” he said. “We live agriculture and we believe in it.”

One of the company’s major initiatives is the Farm Journal Legacy Project. The project’s focus is to aid farmers in setting up a succession plan. The average age of farmers in the United States is 59, Weber said, and many have avoided figuring out what will happen to their farm when they retire. Farmers might not have any children who are interested in taking over the farm or might have too many possible successors. The project aims to help farmers navigate the possible roadblocks to successfully creating a sustainable succession plan.

Farm Journal reaches out to farm families through the project in many ways, including workbooks, an online community and family retreats. With more than a decade of commitment to the project and several multi-million dollar grants secured, Farm Journal is positioned to be a leader in tackling the issue of farm succession.

The other major service project Farm Journal has undertaken is combating hunger, both in the U.S. and worldwide. Weber said the company has secured approximately $20 million in funding for education and sustainable development projects. Along with providing food to needy populations, the project sends American farmers abroad to places where farmers aren’t able to easily set up sustainable farms. An important aspect of the initiative is to pass on the charitable focus to younger generations, so the issue of sustainable agriculture isn’t lost in the future. Passing on a charitable perspective is crucial to the success of every one of Farm Journal’s advocacy projects.

“One of our biggest objectives is to educate the next generation,” Weber said. “That is the essence of service journalism.”

The Top Manager award is funded by the generous support of Don McAllister (MSJ71) and Liane McAllister Romaine in honor of their father, Donald McAllister, a B2B publishing leader at Geyer-McAllister.