MISSOULA—Sheridan Johnson, a seventh grade student at Utterback Middle School in Conrad, won the Montana Farm Bureau Foundation Speech Contest, Junior Division, during the Montana Farm Bureau Annual Convention in Missoula. The Junior Division is open to youths under 14 years of age.
During her speech, the 12-year-old addressed the topic, “As a future agricultural leader, where do you see yourself in the agriculture community in the future?” “I am hoping to become a successful farmer,” said Johnson. “Part of that success will include significant involvement in agricultural organizations such as the Montana Farm Bureau. My involvement with these organizations will be an important step in making changes occur. Some of those changes include getting rid of laws that negatively impact the way we farm or ranch, and creating more processing options for agricultural producers.”
She explains, “Agriculture could be made stronger by creating lots of opportunities to process agricultural products. I would like to work with my community leaders to build a bakery that uses Golden Triangle Wheat. Bio-fuels like ethanol, bio-diesel and bio-lubricants could be great opportunities for growth in Montana.”
Johnson won $400 for her first place win. Second place, junior division, went to Garett Prince, a 12-year-old student at Drummond High School, while Eli Kutsch, an 11-year-old from Bozeman, received third place.
In his speech, Prince blasted the U.S. Department of Labor’s proposal to limit youth under the age of 16 from working agricultural jobs. “The Department of Labor’s reason for these new policies is that kids like me, the ones under 16, lack the cognitive ability to perform this task. I find this totally insulting. I have been working with animals, operating machinery and riding horses all my life and suddenly my AGE is what determines “cognitive ability?’” He added that the law would prohibit the working with and showing 4-H animals such as steers and horses. “This would essentially kill the 4-H program,” he stated.
Kutsch talked about his recent visit to the pumpkin farm. “To strengthen agriculture in Montana, we need to remember to keep kids and families involved in local farms so that kids have a place to learn about food and how is it grown,” the 11-year-old said.
The Speech Contest is an annual event hosted by the Montana Farm Bureau Foundation, which gives $1500 in prize money to first, second and third place winners in two divisions. The MFB Foundation’s mission is to support Montana agriculture through education, research and community support, with a special emphasis on the development of youth. The Montana Farm Bureau Convention runs Nov. 6-9 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Missoula.
Montana Farm Bureau is the state’s largest agricultural organization with more than 17,500 member families.