YUMA, Ariz. (KECY/KYMA) - A few weeks ago, Yuma’s own Kirk Dunn won runner up at the national Discussion Meet in Austin Texas at the 101st Farm Bureau Annual Convention.
For this week’s Home Grown, I sat down with another well known Yuma farmer who has been involved in the discussion meet since the year 2000.
For Paul Brierly, not much has changed since he competed 20 years ago.
“Each state has their state-level competition, and I won that, so I was representing Arizona in Orlando at the American Farm Bureau,” said Paul Brierly, executive director, Yuma center of excellence for desert agriculture.
There are a couple of different ways in which young farmers can communicate their knowledge of agriculture.
For example, the Achievement Award competition, allows young farmers to talk about their farm, how they succeeded, growth reports, and financial operations.
On the other hand, the Discussion Meet simulates a committee meeting in which active discussion and participation are expected.
“In the Discussion Meet, it’s a simulated committee meeting, basically. The whole point is, yes, make good points, but also bring in other people’s good points and try to put them all together to find the best solution,” said Brierly.
Participants are evaluated on their ability to exchange ideas and information on a predetermined topic.
Questions are asked that make the farmer think about how agriculture affects the society today.
“I remember at least one of them was about genetically modified foods,” said Brierly.
Brierly remembers his experience competing at the national level, saying it was hard to compete with ranchers from states outside Arizona that hold local and regional competitions.
“It was such a challenge just to get your points in. As the discussion was going, you would have something to add, and then before you could get in and add it, they would be off on some other [topic]. You need to be cooperative because it’s not a debate, but yet you’re trying to elbow your way in and make a good point,” said Brierly.
Brierly says other local farmers have also competed from Yuma county including John Boelts, Jonathan Dinsmore and Marcos Moore.
“These things are not something most people want to raise their hand and say ‘I want to do that.’ It’s kind of hard to get volunteers to do it because it’s scary, you’re putting yourself out there. You may not feel like an expert on the topic, but most people that do it are really glad they did,” said Brierly.
Brierly hopes to encourage farmers to participate because he says these competitions have benefitted his career as a farmer.
“I really did want to encourage people that again, it may not sound like something fun, but it’s a great experience. It takes a little bit of work, but for me, it was really a launching pad to want to get more involved in things. It’s led to where I am today, which I’m really pleased to have the job I have and still working in agriculture,” said Brierly.
Young farmers and ranchers can compete in the Achievement Award and Excellence in Agriculture competitions during AFBF’s Annual Convention.
If you are a young farmer and rancher and would like to compete in the next Discussion Meet, you can apply at azfb.org.