The Weekly Times’ Farmer of the Year Awards: Reaching regional audiences

the weekly times editor james Wagstaff

James Wagstaff: “Sustainability has become a core focus in recent years in line with community and consumer expectations.”

On Friday, News Corp Australia’s rural and regional masthead, The Weekly Times, celebrated the nation’s agricultural sector with the 12th Farmer of the Year awards.

The big winners of the night were Nigel and Vanessa Corish from Condamine QLD, who are pushing for a more sustainable future for the grain industry. The pair and their family are cutting nitrogen fertiliser and are among the first Australian cropping farmers to develop a soil carbon project.

Profiles of the winners and finalists will appear the Farmer of the Year magazine, and insert in The Weekly Times on Wednesday 28 February, and state-based mastheads and regional mastheads on Sunday 3 March.

Ahead of the awards, Mediaweek spoke with James Wagstaff, editor of The Weekly Times, about what regional audiences are looking for and what’s next in 2024.

“We’ve been doing this for 12 years, the first year that we honoured the farmers was in 2012 – which coincidentally was the Australian Year of the Farmer,” Wagstaff said.

Ever since then, the awards have grown in stature. We’ve gone from an awards programme that was very focused on South East Australia – in line with The Weekly Times’ footprint – but we’ve really grown that nationally. This year the farmers are from Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania. 

“Farmers, by nature, generally don’t go seeking the spotlight. So it’s an opportunity to recognise those farmers that don’t go seeking recognition.”

The awards are presented in partnership with Coles, who have been working with News Corp on the awards for 12 years.

They’ve been really strong advocates for the awards since day dot. They’re very supportive of what we do at The Weekly Times, and they’re very conscious of the efforts that farmers go to to feed and clothe the world,” Wagstaff said.

Graingrower Nigel Corish at Woodland, a 3600hectare property 370km west of Brisbane.

Graingrower Nigel Corish at Woodland, a 3600-hectare property 370km west of Brisbane.

Brands in the Bush

The Weekly Times has been around for nearly 160 years, and Wagstaff tells Mediaweek that it is “a very trusted brand” for those in regional Australia.

With farmers being “very loyal to their brands”, Wagstaff said they do have some expectations that go alongside that loyalty. 

“One of the areas that we’ve focused heavily on in the past in line with community expectations has been sustainability. 

The three pillars that we concentrate on are productivity, innovation, and sustainability with these awards, and sustainability obviously, has become a core focus in recent years in line with community and consumer expectations.”

Readers are also after “trust and credible information,” with Wagstaff saying that consumer expectations in regional Australia also extend to helping their businesses thrive. 

“A lot of our businesses is B2B operated – we’re talking to farmers from a Weekly Times perspective. But through the greater News Corp, we also are able to talk to a more consumer audience as well. But from a B2B perspective, they’re all after information that can help their businesses grow.”

Looking Ahead

Laughing that “We’ll get the awards out of the way” before focussing too much on the next jobs, Wagstaff said there are a number of major events on the horizon for The Weekly Times in 2024.

“We’ve got a number of different partnerships. We’ve got the Harvey Norman Shine Awards which come up later in the year, We’ve got our four Ag Journal magazines – 600,000 copies appear in every News Corp publication, and the first one is going to print next week. The podcast returning in two weeks.  So it is a very busy year, we have projects popping up all over the shop.”

Top Image: James Wagstaff

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