How farmers and rancher deal with consumer priorities was the main topic during the Collegiate Discussion Meet November 11 during the Montana Farm Bureau Annual Convention in Billings. The six competitors included Andee Baker, MSU; Sheridan Johnson, MSU; Jake Christenson, UM-Western; Carson Houser, Miles Community College; Kelly Rehm, Miles Community College and Taylor Lindeman, UM-Western. Johnson was named the winner following the competition and received an all-expense paid trip to compete at the Young Farmers & Rancher National Conference in March in Louisville.

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: “The customer is always right. How do farmers and ranchers think and respond, through the lens of consumer priorities and marketing trends, to build common values and confidence in modern production methods to build consumer acceptance?” 

“Farmers and ranchers need to meet consumers at their level and make sure their concerns are addressed,” Johnson, a junior in college, said during the discussion. “We need to ensure marketing isn’t confusing and that consumers aren’t feeling deceived.”

Johnson, who was raised in a wheat farming and Farm Bureau family in Conrad, said she decided to participate in the Collegiate YF&R Discussion Meet because she saw it was a great way to build connections with other students. Another reason? “I love to talk.”

The ag communications/political science major encourages other students to participate in the Discussion Meet. “I recommend that other students get out of their comfort zones and try this. This competition creates an opportunity to practice at the collegiate level. Realize it’s a discussion where people can share ideas, it’s not a debate.”

Autumn 2019 has been an exceptional time for Johnson. Not only did she win the Collegiate Discussion Meet, but received her American FFA Degree during the FFA Convention in late October in Indianapolis. The American FFA Degree is awarded to members who have demonstrated the highest level of commitment to FFA and made significant accomplishments in their supervised agricultural experiences (SAEs).

The Montana Farm Bureau Convention runs November 11-14 at the DoubleTree and Northern Hotels in downtown Billings.