Young Alabama farmers will have more opportunities to develop leadership skills and earn recognition this year as part of the American Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers program.Brandon Moore, young farmers director for the Alabama Farmers Federation, said Alabama’s affiliation with the national organization has opened doors for the state’s agricultural producers.”Young farmers are excited about AFBF membership because it gives them an opportunity to network and share ideas with their peers across the country,” Moore said. “The Young Farmers and Ranchers program also includes two additional competitions, the Excellence in Agriculture award and the Discussion Meet. These events will complement our existing Outstanding Young Farm Family (OYFF) contest and give more young farmers a chance to be recognized for their hard work.”An added bonus of the Federation’s affiliation with AFBF is Dodge’s sponsorship of the Young Farmers and Ranchers program, Moore said. In addition to cash awards for state winners in each of the three YF&R contests, national winners will receive selected 2007 Dodge Ram pickup trucks.The Excellence in Agriculture contest recognizes individuals and couples who promote the agricultural industry through their daily work routine but who are not involved in production agriculture. Contestants submit applications in which they describe how their occupations are involved in agriculture and what issues agriculture needs to address in the next five years. The young farmers must outline their leadership activities within the Federation (Farm Bureau) and community.”Over the years, some of our most active Young Farmers members have been individuals who grew up on a farm but later took jobs in town that are related to agriculture,” Moore said. “Although they aren’t involved in production agriculture, these leaders are committed to promoting agriculture and sustaining the farming way of life. The Excellence in Agriculture contest gives us a chance to honor the people who work behind the scenes to help make sure farmers can continue to feed the world.” Finalists in the Excellence in Agriculture contest will make a 15-minute PowerPoint presentation to a panel of judges, which will be followed by a 10-minute question-and-answer session.Another new opportunity for Alabama young farmers this year is the Discussion Meet contest. Its goal is to help participants build basic discussion skills, develop a keen understanding of important agricultural issues and explore how groups can pool knowledge to reach a consensus and solve problems.Although public speaking ability and debate skills are both useful in the Discussion Meet, the event rewards logical thinking and diplomacy as much as it does eloquence and persuasion.”Our organization’s strength depends on its members’ ability to analyze agricultural issues and decide on solutions that best meet their needs,” Moore said. “Discussion Meet is designed to build these crucial skills in young, active farmers and ranchers.”During each Discussion Meet competition, participants will be given a topic or agricultural issue to discuss. Each will then make brief opening comments before engaging in a group discussion that will last up to 30 minutes. Throughout the process, judges will evaluate each contestant on his or her ability to facilitate cooperation, accept and give constructive criticism, promote problem solving and enhance communication.The Alabama winners in the Discussion Meet and Excellence in Agriculture contests will receive $500 from Dodge and a matching award from the Alabama Farmers Federation Young Farmers Division. The state OYFF winner will receive $500 from Dodge, one year’s use of a new vehicle from county Farmers Federations across Alabama and a computer from Valcom Business Centers. In addition, John Deere and Co. provided each Alabama OYFF commodity division winner with two tickets to the John Deere suite at the Talladega Superspeedway. The overall winner will receive the use of a new John Deere tractor for six months or 250 hours.At the national level, the Achievement Award winner will receive a new 2007 Dodge Ram 3500 Mega Cab Laramie 4×4 with a 5.9L Cummins Turbo Diesel engine. The national winner will also receive paid registration to the 2007 YF&R Leadership Conference, Feb. 10-12, 2007, in Jacksonville, Fla. Each of the four runners-up will receive a Case IH DX Farmall compact tractor.The top Discussion Meet winner at the national level will receive a 2007 Dodge Ram 2500 Quad Cab Laramie 4×4 pickup with a 5.7L HEMI engine and paid registration to the 2007 YF&R Leadership Conference. Runners-up will receive a $6,000 U.S. Savings Bond, courtesy of Cummins Engine.The national winner of the Excellence in Agriculture Award will receive a 2007 Dodge Ram 1500 Quad Cab Laramie 4×4 equipped with a 4.7L Magnum V8 engine and a trip to the YF&R Conference. Runners-up will receive a $2,000 U.S. Savings Bond and a Farm Boss Chain saw, courtesy of Stihl Outdoor Power Equipment.National winners will be determined during AFBF’s 88th annual convention in Salt Lake City, Utah, Jan. 7-10, 2007.
Contests Offer Young Farmers New Opportunities