'Hopefully, we actually solve some of these problems,' competitor says
By DEAN BRICKEY
East Oregonian Publishing Group
PENDLETON, Ore. -- A team from Blue Mountain Community College's Agriculture and Farm Business Management program is the first from Oregon to earn a trip to a national competition.
Kayla Taylor, Nicole Markgraf and Bowdrie Boston are traveling to Orlando, Fla., next month. They will compete in the American Farm Bureau Federation's Young Farmer and Rancher Discussion Meet.
Taylor won the state competition in Lincoln City last month. Markgraf placed second and Boston third. They were among about 10 Oregon college students who competed. They were judged on their knowledge of five agricultural topics selected for discussion by the American Farm Bureau Federation.
"It's not a debate," said Taylor, 19, of Browns Valley, Calif. "It's just a discussion."
Taylor has spent a lot of time in Eastern Oregon. Her grandparents, Oliver and Joanna Wentz, have a ranch near Pilot Rock, where she's been helping them with lambing since she was a child.
Boston, 19, who's from Pendleton, said the goal of the competition is to find a solution to the topics proposed.
"It's supposed to be like a committee meeting," he said. "You try to get all the ideas you can out on the table."
Judges evaluate the competitors on an exchange of ideas and information on a predetermined topic. The judges are looking for the contestant that offers constructive criticism, cooperation and communication while analyzing agricultural problems and developing solutions.
Nick Nelson, BMCC ag instructor, said the Farm Bureau has been struggling to get young people to participate in its program, but it appears the Young Farmers and Ranchers Program is breaking through that barrier with this competition.
"This has been the first opportunity for the collegiate clubs to compete at the Farm Bureau contest," he said. "These guys have really done their work for it."
Taylor, a second-year student studying agricultural education, is looking forward to leading the Oregon team in the national competition. She will be competing for a $2,500 scholarship.
Markgraf, 20, who placed second at state, is from Baker City. She, too, will compete in Orlando. Boston is traveling along as an alternate.
The BMCC team expects to compete among about 100 others from every state in the nation.
Taylor is excited about the national competition, but a bit anxious as well.
"I'm pretty nervous. I'm extremely nervous, actually, but I'm excited," she said. "Talking about these topics is something I love, because hopefully, we actually solve some of these problems.
"It's an honor to be the first from Oregon to compete at nationals," Taylor added. "I want to make Oregon proud."
American Farm Bureau Federation's Young Farmer and Rancher Discussion Meet topics
* Farm Bureau is the leading voice for agriculture but not the only voice. How do we encourage other agricultural groups to work together for the common good of our industry?
* Government has always been involved in agriculture. Is the current level of government involvement a net hindrance or a net benefit to agriculture?
* How will food movements such as "foodie" and "locavore," which are focused primarily in urban centers, influence national agricultural production and federal programs?
* Has technology become essential for American farmers? Should Farm Bureau influence and encourage all generations of farmers, ranchers and agriculturalists to embrace technological opportunities?
* Given recent challenges, such as volatile food prices and limited world food supplies, do American consumers adequately appreciate the importance of U.S.-produced food? Will American consumers consider American agriculture important to our security in the future?