by Neil Melancon, Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation
When the nation’s largest general farm and ranch organization begins its annual meeting this week, the main thrust will be to get the voice of agriculture heard in the U.S. and abroad.
For the Young Farmer and Ranchers competing in this year’s American Farm Bureau contests, however, it’s all about staying focused on the competition. For Ryan and Danielle Yerby, contestants for this year’s YF&R Achievement Award from Grant Parish, that means fighting down some butterflies in the belly.
“I’m pretty nervous about it,” Ryan Yerby said as he made preparations to leave for this year’s convention in Phoenix. “I’ve done some research, looking around and talking to a few other contestants, comparing our operations. There’s lots of good competitors and it’s anyone’s game. I look forward to meeting them and going against them.
“I am nervous, but I’m very confident in our operation and our abilities,” he added. I would like to see how we stack up.”
Katie Sistrunk is preparing for the Discussion Meet, held on Saturday. She’s also preparing her 14-month-old daughter Piper to go with her. Even with all the competition, the convention is still a family-friendly affair, something Sistrunk will take with her as she challenges her competitors on how the Discussion Meet issues affect family farms in Louisiana and the U.S.
“I think I’ve been involved enough in my preparation for this to hold my own in the conversation,” she said. “There’s some really good topics this year, so it should be fun.”
Tom and Molley Usrey of DeSoto Parish will be competing on Saturday as well. Winners of this year’s Louisiana Farm Bureau Excellence in Agriculture award, the produce and goat farmers will compete on the national level for the award aimed at part-time farmers.
Tom Usrey said the preparation for the award at the state level has served them well on the national level.
“The application process included us providing all our background information and writing about our involvement in agriculture,” Tom said. “We also had to discuss three topics currently affecting agriculture in front of the judges and expand on one of those. Then we had to discuss the way we would personally address those issues.”
While the national-level competition has all the competitors on edge, for most of them, this will also be their first time attending AFBF’s annual convention. Many of the policy-shaping forums, guest speakers and educational workshops hold a great deal of interest for them along with the YF&R events.
“I’m looking forward to see what they offer at national level,” Yerby said. “I haven’t got a lot of exposure to what goes on there. I’m curious about what greater knowledge I can get, learning from what others are doing and make ourselves better.”