Michigan State University’s Ben Butcher and Careerline FFA Chapter’s Lilly Nyland won Michigan Farm Bureau's 2021 High School and Collegiate Discussion Meets Dec. 1 at MFB's 102nd Annual Meeting in Grand Rapids.
Addy Stuever-Battel (MSU) and Mary Wells (Hopkins FFA Chapter) finished runner-up.
Two contestants from each Collegiate Farm Bureau chapter throughout the state earned a spot to discuss and advance through preliminary and final rounds at the state level, while the winning high school contestant and runner-up received cash prizes ($250 and $150, respectively).
Butcher will represent Michigan this February in the 2022 American Farm Bureau Young Farmer and Rancher Collegiate Discussion Meet in Louisville, Kentucky. Both Butcher and Nyland were awarded $250 and a plaque, thanks to DTE Energy and the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture.
“Our youth discussion meets for high school and collegiate members are really important because, as everyone knows, the younger generation is the lifeblood of an organization,” said Joe Ankley, high school and collegiate liaison for the State Young Farmer Committee.
“It's always great to have young people interested in the organization. They already have an interest in agriculture, and to take that interest and put it toward a professional organization like Farm Bureau is important.”
Discussion meet contestants answered questions relevant to farmers, including farmer safety, mental health, and livestock processing. The meets are designed to test young leaders with a unique public speaking challenge; participants are rewarded for their knowledge of current agricultural issues, their cooperative demeanor, innovative problem solving and the tact and civility of their delivery. As the contest moderators explain in their opening remarks, these are discussions, not debates.
Also competing in the final round for the Collegiate Discussion Meet were Emily Mead, Glen Oaks Community College; and Mackenzie Strong, Delta College. High school finalists include Dakota Spink, Springport FFA Chapter; Shamarea’ Treadway, Pankow FFA Chapter; Nathanial Cochrane, Perry FFA Chapter; and Nicole Hollabaugh, Critters and Crafts 4-H Club.
Although he grew up on a cash-crop farm in Durand, Butcher didn’t see himself as a farmer.
Enter FFA advisor Mark Forbush, who steered Butcher in another direction.
“My ag teacher and FFA advisor, Mr. Forbush, showed me that there are other ag careers,” Butcher said.
“I saw (Mr. Forbush) shape students and kids who would come in really shy and uninvolved, and they would leave being able to speak and conduct themselves in a public manner. If it weren't for Mr. Forbush, I would still be really lost in what I wanted to do with my career. Now, I'm going to become an agricultural educator just like he is to help others get a great career in agriculture.”