Sixteen bright young stars from across the spectrum of youth agricultural education competed in Michigan Farm Bureau’s Youth Discussion Meet, Nov. 27 at the organization’s annual meeting in Grand Rapids. Patterned after Farm Bureau’s legacy of discussion meets, but for a younger host of contestants, the Youth Discussion Meet saw participants representing FFA chapters and high schools from across the state.
Haili Gusa of the Ubly High School came out on top of this year’s competition, followed by runner-up Alex Scovill of the Perry High School. Also competing in the final round were Emma Barnum, Mason High School; Lauren Hauler, Dundee High School; Jon Kantz, Springport High School; and Katlyn Taylor, Whiteford High School.
This year’s contestants took on several topics relevant to farmers today:
• It is predicted that over the next five years, 60,000 high-skilled agriculture related jobs will be open annually across the United States. However, only approximately 35,000 will be filled with graduates equipped with agriculture-related degrees or certificates. Discuss what obstacles are preventing students from pursuing these opportunities. What programs encourage young people to pursue a degree, certificate or career in agriculture?
• Michigan’s Great Lakes hold 20 percent of the world’s freshwater supply. Discuss the current issues associated with these freshwater basins, and how it is affecting the nation’s agriculture and natural resource industries. What current resources and initiatives are addressing these issues?• Progress in agriculture is often driven by organizations which contribute to the industry. In 2019, Michigan Farm Bureau is celebrating its 100th anniversary. Discuss the progress that has been made in agriculture via organizations such as Farm Bureau. How will Michigan Farm Bureau remain relevant into the next century and what role will FFA and 4-H play?
Farm Bureau discussion meets test young leaders with a unique public speaking challenge; participants are rewarded for their knowledge of current agricultural issues, their cooperative demeanor, innovative problem solving and the tact and civility of their delivery. As the contest moderators explain in their opening remarks, these are discussions, not debates.
The final round on Nov. 27 represented the culmination of a process that began with six regional contests that took place in October and November. The top three contestants from each region faced off alongside each at MFB’s 99th Annual Meeting in Grand Rapids.
The first- and second-place winners took home $250 and $150 cash prizes, respectively, courtesy of the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture.
The Youth Discussion Meet is open to any high school student interested in agriculture.