Farmer’s tribute scoops national journalism prize
A glowing tribute to an Ord Valley farmer’s life published in The Kimberley Echo and Countryman has scooped a national journalism prize, earning the reporter a free trip to America.
Peter de Kruijff penned the piece “Vale, spirit of the Kimberley”, which was published in The Kimberley Echo and Countryman on December 21, 2017.
The story won the ‘star prize for excellence in rural print journalism’ at the Australian Council of Agricultural Journalists Awards for Excellence in Rural Reporting today.
Raymond “Spike” Dessert was a legend in the Kimberley, a farmer and rum distiller who moved to Kununurra from California in 1972.
The third-generation seed grower established an Australian branch of his family’s multi-national business Dessert Seeds in Kununurra, before creating WA’s first rum.
These days, Ord River Rum is synonymous with Kununurra, and Spike’s family business The Hoochery Distillery sells an almost continuous stream of bottles from the Desserts’ farm and cellar door.
Spike died in December 2017, leaving a hole in the Ord Valley farming community.
de Kruijff was working as a journalist at The Kimberley Echo when he wrote the award-winning piece, and now works at The West Australian in Perth.
“The Dessert family are such a big part of WA’s farming community and Australia’s ever-growing distilling industry, on a micro scale they sponsor community events and on a national scale they have contributed so much as a trailblazer for spirits,” he said.
“For the piece to be recognised alongside the news institution of Four Corners in the national awards goes to show how it doesn’t matter if you’re in the biggest city in the country or one of its most remote to have good stories about the people in your community be recognised outside your immediate circulation.
“Journalists at small outlets should be confident in their work as it’s of the utmost importance for small towns and has the added capability to make a splash on the larger digital media landscape.”
Judges said the piece was written succinctly yet with character, and painted a “vivid picture of a man who was clearly an inspiration to the Kimberley”.
“This multi-faced story touched on important agricultural history, pioneering value-adding and the challenges faced by all agricultural entrepreneurs,” the judges report said.
As part of his prize, de Kruijff will travel to America in July for the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists Congress in Minneapolis.
His story will go up against the best in the world in the annual International Federation of Agricultural Journalists Awards.
Other Australian winners include ABC TV’s Four Corners reporter Michael Brisseden, in broadcast, and The Stock Journal photographer Jacqui Bateman, in photography.
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