Ohio State student Emily Krueger represented Ohio in a national agricultural speaking contest, besting 47 other state winners to win a $2,500 scholarship.
Krueger, a third-year in agricultural communication, won the American Farm Bureau Federation Collegiate Discussion Meet on Feb. 6 in Orlando, Fla.
“Discussion Meet is essentially a small group communication exercise,” Krueger said. “It is not a debate, but is designed to improve small group leadership skills.”
Farm Bureau’s official contest guide said a discussion meet is “designed to simulate a committee meeting where discussion and active participation are expected from each participant.” Judges evaluate contestants on the exchange of ideas and information on a given topic.
“Prior to the competition you are given questions and immediately before the contest they tell you which question you’ll be discussing,” Krueger said.
Competitors prepared for five possible topics, ranging from technology in farming to government involvement in agriculture.
For the final round of discussion, Krueger said the last question was dealt with the influence of food movements: “How will food movements, such as ‘foodie’ or ‘locavore,’ which are often focused primarily in urban centers, influence national agricultural production and federal programs?”
Though the American Farm Bureau holds the Collegiate Discussion Meet annually, Krueger’s entry marked Ohio’s first foray into the contest.
“I’m so proud of Emily,” said Darrell Rubel, director of Leadership Development at the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. “She worked hard, and she did a great job.”
The hard work of preparing for the contest included one key aspect.
“Research, research, research,” Rubel said. “It’s not about the person who talks the most, but you have to bring good ideas to the table.”
Rubel said creating good ideas means reading, asking good questions and seeking and sharing ideas from other people involved in agriculture and food production.
Official guidelines said judges look for “the contestant that offers constructive criticism, cooperation and communication while analyzing agricultural problems and developing solutions.”
“Discussion Meet really is about cooperative attitude,” Krueger said. “It’s not about who knows the most facts on a given topic or who can come up with the best solution.”
Instead, Krueger said the contest is about leading a group cooperatively and building on ideas shared by members around the table.
Rubel said the contest is a useful professional development tool for college students.
“It’s perfect for anybody who wants to be a board president, to lead a committee, or just to help a group come to a decision,” he said.
Krueger said she plans to put her Discussion Meet skills to work on campus.
“I’m the Vice President of Collegiate Young Farmers,” Krueger said. “I would really like to take some of the ideas from the discussion and apply them to what we’re doing in the organization.”
Krueger said she would consider competing in the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation’s Young Ag Professionals Discussion Meet in late 2011, though she had not yet committed. That contest is open to any Farm Bureau member ages 18 to 35.
The winner of the state contest will compete in the American Farm Bureau Discussion Meet in Honolulu, Jan. 8 to 11, 2012.