Over the past two years I have contemplated participating the UW-Madison Collegiate Farm Bureau Discussion meet. However, each time I thought about doing it, I backed out. I was scared to talk about agricultural issues that I was less familiar with and even more scared to do it in front of an audience. While I loved public speaking, the competition side was not my thing and working together to form a solution seemed very challenging.
After competing in the Collegiate, State, and National contest I say do not let being scared or nervous stop you from competing. If you are thinking about participating in the discussion meet, you should. When I first looked at these questions I was freighted, yet if you break them down there it is easier to see the value in interpreting how American Farm Bureau can play a role and making this difference.
For instance, one question was “Formation of family farm corporations is common practice. How can Farm Bureau work to ensure that the public’s positive perception of the family farm is not lost?” This seems like a daunting task, yet there are many ways that Farm Bureau can help. One example would be to employ its Grassroots Outreach (GO) team to help spread this message.
If you are scared here are five tips and tricks to get you started.
- Research. See what information is out there but also research what Farm Bureau is already doing to mitigate the problem.
- Be Bold. Stand out with a strong opening and closing that connect together. Share strong examples and stories in your discussion and be confident. Confidence makes people listen.
- Be aggressive. Coming from the Midwest it’s easy to wait our turn to speak. While this shows cooperation, it can allow you to get knocked down. Challenge yourself to speak up and maintain a place in the conversation.
- Ask for help. There are so many people within the industry who are facing this challenge each and every day. They have additional information to help find the most practical solutions.
- Have Fun. Being nervous is normal. However, this is not a debate and finding a solution and action plan should make you feel good because you are identifying ways to mend a major problem.
This contest teaches you a lot about the agricultural topics and hones your communication skills. I learned so much more about trade, buying power, corporate farming, succession plans and more and this contest was the reason I retained it and can use it in my everyday connections.
I encourage more and more people to give it try. Not only do you learn, but there are numerous opportunities to gain scholarship money, meet new people and grow your resume.
If you want to learn more about discussion meet, check it out at: https://www.fb.org/programs/young-farmers-and-ranchers/competitive-events/
Alison Wedig is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison majoring in Life Science Communication. She won the Wisconsin Farm Bureau State Collegiate Discussion Meet and competed in the Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers National Collegiate Discussion Meet, advancing to the sweet sixteen round. Reach out to Alison on Twitter @Alison_Wedig.