Díaz Tompkins, a student at Southside Virginia Community College, earned first place in Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s Collegiate Young Farmers Discussion Meet, held virtually Oct. 21.
First runner-up was Sarah Thomas, a senior at Virginia Tech. Other finalists were Kate Shifflett of Lord Fairfax Community College and Isabelle Leonard of Virginia Tech. Madison Cogle of Ferrum College was first alternate.
The Collegiate Discussion Meet competition is designed to simulate a committee meeting in which discussion and active participation are expected from each student contestant. Competitors are judged on their discussion skills, understanding of important agricultural issues and ability to build consensus.
This year’s competition explored timely topics important to Virginia’s agricultural community. In one round of the contest, students were asked what mix of investment and policy initiatives can provide reliable broadband access to farmers and rural America. Tompkins, a Chesterfield County resident, said technology in agriculture is a resource, and so is the next generation of tech-savvy farmers. Young agriculturists who came of age in the digital era can show established farmers the benefits of using newer technologies, and how to profit from them.
But how is that accomplished in the absence of rural broadband infrastructure? There must be a push for legislative action, Tompkins said, “not only at a national level, but at a local level.”
Tompkins said rural electrical cooperatives have an impact. He added that local governments could entice big tech companies to invest in their communities through infrastructure projects.
To identify connectivity needs of a rural community, Tompkins asked, “What is a way to make things efficient in day-to-day operations? How can technology improve this? At the end of the day, farmers want to help their local community, but also stay above water at the same time. They see how technology can benefit them to help them grow and expand operations, and bring in more people to agriculture.”
Tompkins plans to pursue degrees in agribusiness and intellectual property. He is a former VFBF Outstanding Young Agriculturalist finalist.
He was awarded $1,000 from Southern Farm Life Insurance Co. and VFBF Young Farmers, and will represent Virginia in the American Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers & Ranchers Collegiate Discussion Meet, to be held virtually in March 2021.
Thomas was awarded a $750 prize as runner-up. The other finalists won $500 from VFBF.