Jesse Martin of Rockingham County took top honors Nov. 28 in the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s annual Young Farmers Discussion Meet.
The competition was held at the organization’s 2018 Annual Convention in Hot Springs.
First runner-up was Sarah Rudolph of Wythe County. Other finalists were Jonathan Grimes of Wythe County and Rebekah Slabach of Halifax County.
The Discussion Meet competition is designed to simulate a committee meeting in which discussion and active participation is expected from each contestant. Competitors are judged on their discussion skills, understanding of important agricultural issues and how well they build a consensus. This year’s final-round topic was “In our modern world, the rapid dissemination of information and opinion about agriculture and food technologies can make it difficult to distinguish fact from fiction. Given these challenges, how can Farm Bureau best protect farmers’ and ranchers’ access to production technology options?”
During the event Martin said farmers need to communicate outside of their tribe. “We need to be a unified voice accepting of all areas of agriculture and moving the ball forward.”
He said producers need to be mindful that, with issues like GMOs, consumers may have a hard time seeing how that technology is utilized. He also said that farmers need to “protect the use of technology with lobbying” and make sure legislators understand its purpose.
In his closing statement, Martin noted that “the irony is what we produce is the most powerful good of any good that all consumers rely on.” He added that farmers produce more than ever before and need to be poised to do so using new technology. “We need to help people understand the inwards and outwards (of agriculture). Our role is not to educate but to be transparent and clear” and be a trusted source.
Martin won a John Deere Gator utility vehicle, courtesy of Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Co. He will receive an upgraded model thanks to James River Equipment in Buchanan, as well as a $1,000 cash award from Virginia Farm Bureau Health Care Consultants. He will compete on the national level in January at the 2019 American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention in New Orleans.
All four Discussion Meet finalists won $500 from VFBF.
Martin is a graduate of Virginia Tech and is an American FFA Degree recipient and life member of the National FFA Alumni Association. He works with the Virginia FFA and FFA Foundation, serving as a coach and mentor for local FFA chapters. He also serves on the Rockingham County Farm Bureau board of directors. He and his wife, Paula, live on their farm in the Shenandoah Valley.