‘Humbling’ experience at AFBF’s annual convention

By DeAnne Bloomberg

I had the humbling opportunity to judge the American Young Farmers & Ranchers Final Four Discussion Meet in Austin, Texas.

Thirty-eight state contestants participated on Saturday, and by Monday, four contestants from Arizona, Kansas, Indiana and Virginia made it to the final round.

While honored, it was one of the most challenging competitions I have judged over the course of my career.

The Discussion Meet simulates a committee meeting in which active discussion and participation are expected. I was asked to evaluate their ability to exchange ideas and information on a predetermined topic, and ultimately offer solutions.

The AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers committee administers a judges’ orientation on the scoring guidelines to retain the integrity of the program. I served as a judge alongside a former national discussion meet winner, state FFA executive, commodity official, and a former state Farm Bureau president.

The final four round was held on the floor of the trade show inside the Austin Convention Center, where plenty of distraction can occur. All five judges were seated amongst the crowd. Seats filled up fast. I made my way to a seat that would give me the best view of all four contestants and most of all hear their conversations.

This year’s final four round topic was: “With abundant productivity, farmers are in need of new markets, including outside traditional food and feed channels. How do we develop, invest and commercialize to innovate new uses of agricultural products and byproducts to benefit all of agriculture?”

That was a tough task to push through in 30 minutes – but the concepts shared were real ideas they can take back to their own communities and plant the seed on that very subject.

I have to admit, once they started debating and offering ideas, I got emotional. Considering the year farmers have endured, seeing young Farm Bureau members offer real solutions to real problems is empowering.

I congratulate all of our past Discussion Meet participants. It is not an easy task, and win or lose, the ability to discuss real issues with other leaders working towards real solutions is the real prize.

This story was provided by FarmWeekNow.com.