How beginning farmers can get involved in agriculture was the main topic during the Collegiate Discussion Meet held November 12 during the Montana Farm Bureau Annual Convention in Billings. The five competitors included Chad Funk-UM-Western; Neela Andres and Meghan Brence, Montana State University, and Jasmine Evans and Sheldon Danforth, Miles City Community College.  Funk and Brence were named the two winners following the competition. 

The Collegiate Discussion Meet is open to Farm Bureau members attending a college with a recognized MFBF College Young Farmers and Ranchers program and is meant to simulate a committee meeting with ideas discussed and solutions developed. 

The question: “Farmers are a shrinking percentage of the population. How can Farm Bureau help first-generation farmers and ranchers get started in agriculture?”

Funk, who lives in Dillon, said early involvement is essential to create an interest in making a living in agriculture. “It’s important to have a mentor, especially someone who can provide financial advice and loan counseling. In addition, it’s great to see these sub-rural programs where young people get a feel for farming.”

The UM student said he decided to compete in the Discussion Meet to “expand thoughts and ideas of others and help to provide a solution to the challenge.”

Brence, who hails from Miles City, pointed out that in addition to introducing agricultural careers to kids in the classroom, social media is a good way to interest young people in farming. In her closing statement, she said “Using communications and different sources to help get members involved early is important. If you get involved early, you are more likely to be involved all of the way through.”

Brence had seen the Collegiate Discussion Meet at the American Farm Bureau (AFBF) Fusion Conference and wanted to try it on the state level. She and Funk will be competing at the AFBF Young Farmers and Ranchers National Conference in Reno in February. The Montana Farm Bureau Foundation will provide the all-expense paid trip for the two winners of the Montana event.

The Montana Farm Bureau Annual Convention runs Nov. 12-15 at the Northern and DoubleTree by Hilton Hotels in downtown Billings.