Converse County rancher Rachel Grant discussed agriculture issues at a recent Wyoming Farm Bureau Young Farmer & Rancher Discussion Meet and earned $500 cash and a trip to San Antonio, Texas.  Grant competed Nov. 16 with other young farmers and ranchers in the event held at the Wyoming Farm Bureau Annual Meeting in Laramie.

Grant will represent the Wyoming Farm Bureau in the American Farm Bureau Federation Discussion Meet Jan. 11-12, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas.  The winner at the national level receives the choice of a 2014 Chevrolet Silverado or a 2014 GMC Sierra pickup valued at $35,000 donated by GM.  The three finalists receive a Case IH Farmall Tractor, $2,500 cash and $500 in STIHL merchandise from STIHL.

 Grant is looking forward to networking with producers from all over the nation at the national competition in January.  “One of the highlights for me will be to form relationships with people who do what we do just with a different commodity and different state,” She said.

The competition is designed to simulate a committee meeting where discussion and active participation are expected from each committee member.  The competition was open to Wyoming Farm Bureau members between the ages of 18-35. 

Albany County Farm Bureau member Stacy Berger was the runner-up in the competition.  The other finalists were:  Leisl Carpenter, Albany County, and Cole Coxbill, Goshen County.

Contestants are given pre-determined topics.  They are judged on their knowledge, speaking ability, ability to participate in a committee meeting and listen to others and air all points of view. 

“It is exciting to participate in a contest that has competitors that are very passionate about what they do for agriculture,” Grant said.  “This discussion meet venue is something that you do often, or hopefully do, weekly or even daily with your community or with your peers whether they are an agriculture producer or not.”

“When you step into this arena it helps you see issues from someone else’s point of view and then be able to go from there and pass on useful information to someone else,” She continued. 

According to Grant, the competition is invaluable in many ways for young producers in Wyoming.  “We have information overload via technology,” She said.

 “We can always say technology is so wonderful, but at the same time are you able to take what you know and share it with someone in a way they can understand in a standard conversation at a Friday night football game?” She asked. 

“That is key in daily relationships.  You don’t have to be an expert, but you have to be willing to listen and understand an issue from someone else’s perspective,” She continued.  “So when you meet somebody who may be against what you do in agriculture or what part you play in the food system, you need to be able to explain why you do what you do, but at the same time provide them with correct information.”

The Discussion Meet competition provides the opportunity for young producers to hone their speaking skills and prepare for policy discussions.   During the 2013 contest, the contestants competed in two rounds of competition.  The first round topic focused on how to engage farmer/rancher members representing all types and kinds of operations to work together to better promote a more positive image of agriculture.   In the second round they discussed how young farmers and ranchers can work with elected and appointed officials to eliminate unnecessary or excessive regulations placed on agriculture while ensuring that new regulations are justified based on their costs and anticipated benefits.

Grant and her husband, William, ranch in the Laramie Mountains near Glenrock.  Their four children (Anna, Cora, Daniel and Jess) are the fifth generation to grow up on the Sno-Shoe Ranch.  Rachel enjoys the opportunity to be a voice for agriculture, working on the ranch and she is a homemade pie and ice cream enthusiast.

“As far as I’m concerned, Farm Bureau is the best grassroots organization for farmers and ranchers that exists,” Grant stated.  “It is exciting to take part in the resolutions process and think about how each resolution formed in someone’s mind at their specific operation.  Then to take that idea through the policy development process and form policy that directs our lobbyists is an incredible opportunity.”

Grant appreciates the policy development process and the ability to have the resolutions vetted by other people.  “Just like the Discussion Meet competition, our resolution process brings out questions like did you think about it from this perspective,” She explained. 

“The resolution process is really exciting and I appreciate that about Farm Bureau because it takes concerns from producers at a very basic, on the ground level and puts it to the forefront for all of our industry,” She concluded.