The winner and the four runners-up in the annual state FFA essay contest were announced last week. The 2018 state winner in Iowa is Anna Campbell of the Audubon FFA chapter in western Iowa. A student at Audubon High School she lives on a farm near the town of Hamlin. Theme of this year’s contest is “How can cooperatives demonstrate their value to the next generation of agriculturists?”
This is the 25th year for the contest. Sponsored by Growmark, the contest is held in four states: Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and Missouri. Each state’s contest winner receives a $500 award from Growmark at his or her state FFA convention. The winner’s chapter also receives a $300 award in honor of his or her accomplishment.
Contest cultivates writing skills, awareness of issues
Four runners-up in each state receive a $125 award. The runners-up for Iowa and their FFA chapters and towns where the chapters are located are: Kanyon Huntington, East Union FFA at Afton; Austin Miller, North Linn FFA at Walker; Rease Morris, Collins-Maxwell FFA at Maxwell; and Rebecca Wilson, Lone Tree FFA at Conesville.
The Growmark System and FS member co-ops, in conjunction with state FFA leaders, sponsor this essay contest to help young people develop their writing skills, learn about current issues in agriculture, and understand the unique role of cooperatives, says Karen Jones, who’s in charge of youth and young producer’s programs for Growmark.
Below is Anna Campbell’s winning essay.
How cooperatives can show their value to the next generation
By Anna Campbell, Audubon FFA member and 2018 Iowa FFA Essay Contest winner
When I look out my window each morning, I see hills of crops dotted with swine confinements, wind turbines and family farms. Contributing to this environment is my father, a 55-year-old farmer living as the fourth generation on his family farm. He lives by a set of principles engraved into him by earlier generations of stewards of the land. Being a contributor to the land is a reward that could be my future, but as the age of the average farmer is rising, the same cannot be said for every young American. In order to stay relevant to future farmers, cooperatives will need to focus on education.
To become a partner with the generations to come, cooperatives need to extend their knowledge to students through programs like FFA. These programs have a mix of rural and urban pupils that have all gained a loose grasp on the idea of agriculture but could retain much more knowledge if approached by cooperatives. This would give students a better understanding of cooperatives and how they help agriculture. Also, this could spark interest in potential future farmers. Offering to share expertise could help teenagers comprehend how the cooperative system works.
While 97% of the U.S. is rural, only 19.3% of the population resides in these areas. While the jobs done in cities are important, the people doing those jobs need a firm understanding of agriculture in order for cooperatives to remain relevant. Cooperatives must make sure that the misinformed don’t become deceived by ag-related myths. Cooperatives could take a role in educating the world through television, radio, newspaper and other forms of communication. Doing so, some urban residents may become interested in the ag industry and help close the rising age gap.
Young people born into agriculture know about cooperatives and the help they can provide. But those who come into the industry unexposed but willing to fill the shoes of agriculturalists do not. One thing that the majority of people have access to that cooperatives can use to reach out with, is social media. Cooperatives could expose incoming agriculturalists to their values through technology; this helps cooperatives be obtainable at the touch of a finger.
This younger generation will have more knowledge about technology than any other and will understand things best through screens. Cooperatives need to lasso the opportunity to remain relevant in the future by providing easily accessible resources through social media.
As the global population is growing rapidly, cooperatives will need to help fill the age gap of the average farmer to help feed the world; their values will need to be shared with generations to come. My father and cooperatives both stand for some of the same principles: member control, giving everyone a voice, and having the most strength through numbers. These are morals that are fading into the past and need to be revitalized through education. Cooperatives can help the future of agriculture, but only if they take the measures to do so.