Dec. 10--For her take on what farmers can do to help stimulate the American economy, Jeannie Dudding won first place in the recent Virginia Farm Bureau Federation's annual Young Farmers Discussion Meet. She is a Craig County farmer and the Virginia Cooperative Extension agriculture and natural resources agent for Bland and Giles counties.
"I was shocked," Dudding said earlier this week of her win. "It was the first time I had entered the Discussion Meet and the last time I was eligible to compete. The age limit for young farmers is 18 to 35."
According to her, the Discussion Meet is based on five questions from the Farm Bureau Federation given to the contestants in advance. One of those questions is then selected for finals and given to the contestants one hour before the competition.
What can farmers do to stimulate more growth in the American economy was the finalists' question. The contestants were given 20 minutes to discuss the topic in a committee style setting.
"It's like conducting a Farm Bureau board meeting," Dudding noted. "We had to do an opening statement and we were given points for our ideas and solutions."
Among her points were to continue putting money into research and finding funding sources other than the federal government. Virginia's new Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund program was an option Dudding suggested pursuing.
Paige Pratt of Smyth County and Sarah Scyphers of Washington County were finalists, too. Jessica Jones of Pittsylvania County was first runner-up.
"I heard people say the competition was really tight this year," said Dudding. "They said usually one or two contestants stand out but all four of us were toe-to-toe."
As winner, she received a John Deere Gator utility vehicle, courtesy of Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company. She will get an upgraded model thanks to the Blueridge Farm Center in Buchanan.
"It will really come in handy on the farm," Dudding said. "It's bigger than a four-wheeler and it's equipped with seatbelts and roll over protection."
All four finalists in the Discussion Meet won $500 from the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.
Dudding also won an all-expenses paid trip to the American Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers and Ranchers Discussion Meet. She and her husband, Jason, will travel to San Antonio, Texas, for the event set for Jan. 11-14, 2014.
Dudding has been a board member of the Craig County Farm Bureau since 2006. She grew up in Connecticut and was active in 4-H and FFA.
After earning a master's degree at Virginia Tech, Dudding was an agriculture teacher and FFA adviser for nine years at Giles County High School. She, her husband, and 5-year-old son, Layton, operate a small cow-calf operation.
The Farm Bureau has 135,000 members in 88 county farm bureaus. The Virginia Farm Bureau Federation is the state's largest farmers' advocacy group.
Wayne Quesenberry can be reached at 1-800-655-1406 Extension 20 or email@example.com.
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