News Watch reporter wins national award for best agricultural writer

News Watch reporter wins national award for best agricultural writer
Bart Pfankuch, South Dakota News Watch content director.

South Dakota News Watch Content Director Bart Pfankuch has won a top national agricultural reporting award for a record third time.

The North American Agricultural Journalists association selected Pfankuch for the 2023 Glenn Cunningham Award, which is given to the writer of the best agricultural story of the year. Pfankuch also won the Cunningham Award in 2020 and 2021, making him the first three-time winner in the 70-year history of the association.

The winning entry, an August 2022 two-part package on fraud and weak USDA oversight in the organic foods industry, was chosen best from winners of eight reporting and writing categories and was named tops among more than 235 entries overall. The organic foods story first won the News Category in the contest.

“Bart Pfankuch’s story about organic food is so readable you can taste it,” the contest judge wrote. “The South Dakota author serves an abundance of flavors, focusing first on an ardent Sioux Falls organic foods customer who’d pay extra for organic foods before paying his own rent … this is a beautifully balanced, informative, and enjoyable read.”

In the contest, News Watch competed against journalists from numerous other outlets, including Politico, Bloomberg News, The Guardian, Inside Climate News and Progressive Farmer.

Pfankuch also won a second-place award in this year’s contest in the Technical Writing category for a package on proposed carbon-capture pipelines. That judge said: “The topic is complex and polarizing, but this was a very even-handed approach. Nicely done, very simply written and accessible for readers … more than anything, this balanced look at all sides was a thorough report. I have not read such a complete look at the issue. Great work.”

The NAAJ is a member-led journalism organization focused on improving and expanding news coverage of agriculture. According to its website, “The North American Agricultural Journalists is a professional, international group of agricultural editors and writers with a membership spanning the United States and Canada. Formerly the Newspaper Farm Editors of America, and then the National Association of Agricultural Journalists, the organization was formed in 1952 to promote the highest ideals of journalism and agricultural coverage.”

South Dakota News Watch reporter Bart Pfankuch prepares to enter a South Dakota hog farm while working on a story in 2019.