It was truly a thrilling experience and an honor to represent Montana as the American Farm Bureau Discussion Meet competitor. This year’s convention was the celebration of Farm Bureau’s Centennial and an exciting first convention for me. The days were busy with workshops, sessions, trade show, concerts, and tours and for me the most thrilling event of the convention was the discussion meet competition. My adrenaline was at an all time high as I prepared the best I could to make Montana proud. The purpose of the Farm Bureau discussion meet is to simulate a committee meeting or Farm Bureau meeting where issues involving agriculture are discussed to achieve action items for the group to move forward with. Through my experience I learned five main things that I brought home and hope will not only inspire the next discussion meet competitor but also things I hope I can use in my own experience and involvement in Farm Bureau.
- Be confident and proud of your own experience and be ready to share them. While competing in the discussion meet I found that some of the best points I could make involved a personal connection to the issue at hand. Whether it was a personal story of my own experience on my ranch, or a discussion that I had with someone from my state. It is crucial to share our story, not only if competing in the discussion meet but wherever one may go. May it be another producer from another part of the US or a consumer interested in food production sharing one’s personal experience can bring a new light to the conversation.
- Have an open mind and heart to really absorb the opportunity to hear someone else’s perspective. One of the most important parts of the discussion meet is listening. You may have a whole list of items to be discussed but if they don’t fit in with the conversation they will be out of place. You may find yourself forcing your items of business in the conversation instead of listening and moving forward with solutions and action items.
- Its good to be competitive, but pair that with a cooperative attitude, collaborative spirit and overall mind set to respect others as you moderate yourselves. One challenge of this competition is to self-moderate. It is difficult to know if you have put forth enough ideas, examples and solutions but also make sure that each person in the discussion is heard and included. Passion courses through discussions about issues involving agriculture both in the discussion meet competition as well as in local Farm Bureau meetings and committees involving policy. Passion is a driver of action and pairing that passion with the passion of others can truly move mountains.
- Be the link from your county and state to the nation and world. One competing in the discussion meet or serving on a committee should feel confident to speak out representing their area of agriculture. When we meet others with another perspective its our job to bring new ideas back to our local communities as well as keep the networking lines open within agriculture, the nation and world.
- Use your experience, connections, and passion to move forward with an action plan to better agriculture at all levels. This opportunity to compete at the American Farm Bureau convention inspired me to continue my involvement and do my part in my local county and state Farm Bureau. The most important take away is to find ways you can use your talents to take part in improving food, fiber and fuel systems.