COLUMBUS — Each of the five young women on the stage at the Columbus Convention Center gave their views, raised questions and provided answers to a host of farming and agriculture topics.
But this wasn’t just any panel discussion on just any farming subjects.
This was the Ohio Farm Bureau’s Discussion Meet preliminary competition.
And as the youngest panelist on the stage, Wilmington College graduate Micaela Wright of Arcanum didn’t mind admitting to being a little nervous. But it apparently didn’t show. The judges at the Nov. 30 Discussion Meet held during the annual Ohio Farm Bureau convention selected her as one of the four finalists in the competition.
The annual contest tests participants’ subject knowledge, problem solving abilities and personal and small group communications skills. Wright will compete in the finals at the Young Agricultural Professionals’ Leadership Experience at the Hyatt Regency in Columbus Feb. 3 and 4 along with three other finalists: Shana Angel of Tuscarawas County, Danielle Burch of Columbiana County and Katie Lee of Carroll County.
“It was a really fun experience. I wasn’t sure what to expect. The other participants did a great job and we had a good discussion. I am really excited for the next round because I think it will be just as good if not better,” Wright said. “It was good because it pushes you out of your comfort zone a little bit. It is a lot of problem solving on the issues of agriculture.”
Was she surprised that the participants in the first round were all women? “I was surprised. I think it was really awesome to see more women getting involved in agriculture. I will say say as the youngest person there I was a little nervous competing against them. But I think we all had different backgrounds. I was really impressed by them. I learned from them and I hope they learned something from me, too,” she said.
How did she think she did? “I am usually pretty tough on myself. I think I did pretty good, but for this next one I definitely want to be more prepared than I was the first time. I want to do more preparation this time for my opening and closing statements,” she said. “For it being my first time I think it went pretty well.”
Wright is a Darke County Farm Bureau member and graduate of Arcanum High School. She is currently a graduate student at Ohio State University working toward a master’s degree in public administration. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Wilmington College in agriculture sustainability. She and her family, parents Mark and Melissa Wright and brothers, Andrew, Joshua and Nathan, raise Shetland sheep. She is also involved with Ohio Farm Bureau’s Young Ag Professionals program.
What will the topics be for the finals? She said the first topic is: “How do farmers and ranchers maintain their intellectual proprietary information, especially related to “Big Data” issues?” The second topic is very timely. “It is about how our agriculture system relies a lot on foreign-born labor, so our discussion will be about how we would propose a national immigration policy,” she said.
Once she completes her Master’s degree program, what job aspirations does she have?
“I am very passionate about agriculture. I enjoy being involved in the political realm. I would like to work in anything that involves those two areas. I’m very involved in the Farm Bureau and would like to continue this, and maybe work for them some day, too,” Wright said.
While at Wilmington College she took part in one of the Farm Bureau-sponsored student trips to Washington D.C.Did she learn a lot on her trip? “Oh yes. First, I learned that I loved D.C. I enjoyed being in the city and the pace of everything there. You feel like you really can make an impact on things. These discussions are great, but to really be able to talk to your congressman about what you want to see happen is really empowering. It was a really, really cool experience. I would enjoy working there,” she said.
“I am really excited about the finals. I don’t know how well I will compete, but I will try my best and see how it goes.”
The winner of the Meet receives a $1,000 cash award from Nationwide Insurance, a Polaris Most Versatile Generator, an expense paid trip to the 2017 OFBF annual meeting Dec. 6-8 in Columbus and an expense-paid trip to the AFBF annual convention in January 2018 in Nashville.
In the December preliminary Meet, Wright wasn’t shy about giving her views on agriculture issues. Here are several examples of what she said that may have played a role in judges selecting her for the finals:
On communicating with the public: “We are not telling our stories all the time, we are just one percent of the population, so the general public sometimes has a negative view of farmers. A lot of that has to do with social media, and there is a lack of trust between a lot of consumers and farmers, and even government workers and our farmers. So we have to bridge that gap and built trust between consumers, farmers and government. One thing we need to do better is to tell our story. We all talked about solutions that we do on our farms and how we are working to find solutions and taking care of our natural resources and our farms – it’s our livelihood. We need to tell those in cities and on social media hearing negatives things our stories. On our family small farm we created a social media page and we just tell our story. It opens a window to people who don’t know what it is like to be on a farm. That is one wa of communicating our story.”
On the new GMO labeling law: “We do want to establish consistency. Our Farm Bureau was already a leader in helping establish that consistency in the food labeling law. Moving forward, as the food market changes and we have new labels that come out, the Farm Bureau will continue to be an advocate for consistency in this labeling.”
Gary Brock can be reached at 937-556-5759 or on Twitter at GBrock4.