Gus Turner of Missoula FFA accepting his 1st place prize.

The Montana Farm Bureau Foundation held its annual Youth Speech Contest during the Montana FFA State Convention, April 4 in Bozeman. The Youth Speech Contest was open to students in the 7th, 8th and 9th grades who were not able to participate in the State FFA Prepared Speech Contest. FFA members, 4-H members and any other student in Montana were eligible to enter. Six winners were announced, receiving between $50-$400. One of the MFB Foundation's most important goals is to aid in the agricultural education and the leadership development of Montana's youth. 

The speech topic that was to be researched and written about was: Montana Farm Bureau celebrates its 100th year as a farm and ranch organization in 2019. What are the biggest challenges the agricultural industry will face in the next 100 years? How can Farm Bureau help address those challenges? What can you do to help address the challenges facing agriculture? 

The winner of the contest was Gus Turner, an 8 th grade student from Missoula FFA. In his speech, Turner noted that one of the greatest challenges in the next hundred years will be farmland. He explained that in 1919 when the Montana Farm Bureau was formed, the U.S. had 104 million people; in 2019, 329 million. “By 2050, there will be approximately 438 million people inhabiting the U.S., so right off the bat we need to increase our food production by 75 percent,” Turner said. “Then these people are going to need places to live and with the steady increase of urbanization, it will lead cities to abandon their roots in farming and start developing the soil that has been plowed by our families for generations and turning it into real estate. This is a very real problem that organizations like Farm Bureau will be facing.” 

Others who received prizes include: Second Place – Claire Standley, 9 th grade, Missoula; Third place – Birtuken Econom, 9 th Grade, Denton FFA; Fourth Place (tie) – Freya Jones, 9 th Grade, Missoula and Emma Day, 9 th Grade, Victor; Fifth Place – Reatta Wood, 8 th Grade, Hysham FFA. 

The contest received high marks from teachers and advisors. “One of my students, who has participated in the Youth Speech Contest for three years has advanced to the National FFA level in Prepared Speaking.  I firmly believe that the Montana Farm Bureau Foundation contest, along with her participation in FFA Creed Speaking, is what allowed her to achieve this honor,” said Cassy Tintzman, Victor High School Agriculture Educator. 

MFB Foundation Coordinator Scott Kulbeck noted, “Public speaking is one of the most important skills for future leaders to develop, but it takes hard work and determination and these kids are doing a great job. They are learning how to research a topic and write a good speech, most importantly, they are gaining the courage to stand up in front of a room full of people and present that speech.  I’m constantly impressed with the ability of these kids who are between 12 and 15 years old to be able to do such a great job of communicating their points of view.”