GRAND RAPIDS — Tera Baker of Berrien County took the top spot at Michigan Farm Bureau's (MFB) 2018 Young Farmer Discussion Meet Nov. 28 at MFB's 99th Annual Meeting in Grand Rapids.
Farm Bureau discussion meets test young farmers ages 18 to 35 in a unique public speaking challenge. During the competition, participants are rewarded for their knowledge of current agricultural issues, their cooperative demeanor and the tact and civility of their delivery. As the contest moderators explain in their opening remarks, these are discussions, not debates.
After a dozen regional contests across the state, nearly 33 participants competed in two opening rounds. Round three saw the field cut to 16 semifinalists, and then four finalists faced off to determine the statewide winner.
Rounding out the Sweet 16 of the competition were Baker, Emily Calderone of Ingham County Farm Bureau, Cody Ferry of Genesee County Farm Bureau, Melissa Fusilier of Washtenaw County Farm Bureau, Michael Genovese of Oakland County Farm Bureau, Katie Heffron of Kent County Farm Bureau, Natalie Holbrook of Lapeer County Farm Bureau, Brad Love of Branch County Farm Bureau, Kevin Messing of Huron County Farm Bureau, Dirk Okkema of Mecosta County Farm Bureau, Joe Packard of Washtenaw County Farm Bureau, Lisa Russcher of Allegan County Farm Bureau, Chris Sanford of Jackson County Farm Bureau, Brenda Sisung of Clinton County Farm Bureau, Katelyn Thompson of Eaton County Farm Bureau, and Shayla Williams of Jackson County Farm Bureau.
The other three finalists joining Baker on stage Wednesday were Love, Packard and Russcher.
This year's discussion topics address four current issues of concern among the agricultural community:
- In our modern world, the rapid dissemination of information and opinion about agriculture and food technologies can make it difficult to distinguish fact from fiction. Given these challenges, how can Farm Bureau best protect farmers' access to production technology options?
- Money talks. How can farmers implement market trends and develop responsive business plans to generate value-added ventures and farm profits?
- As the Voice of Agriculture, how can Farm Bureau be more inclusive of all agriculture and production practices? This includes, but is not limited to, women in agriculture, organic production, fresh produce, forestry and aquaculture.
- Technology is one of the driving forces for innovation and advancement in agriculture. How can the industry attract the best and brightest minds from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) into agricultural careers?
As the state-level winner, Baker received a $2,000 cash prize from AIS Equipment and a paid trip to compete in the national-level Young Farmer and Rancher Discussion Meet at the American Farm Bureau Federation 100th Convention and Annual Meeting in New Orleans, LA., Jan. 11-16, 2019. All four finalists receive a suitcase courtesy of Michigan Farm Bureau Health Services and a Yeti cooler from BASF.