In virtual fashion Dec. 1, Chris Heck of Monroe County took the top spot as winner of Michigan Farm Bureau’s 2020 Young Farmer Discussion Meet at the organization’s 101st annual meeting.
Heck lives in Petersburg with his wife, Rachelle, and 2-year-old daughter, Adelaide. He and his brother Ethan grow organic corn, soybeans and wheat on their 400-acre, seventh-generation family farm.
“I’m thrilled to be this year’s winner of the Young Farmer Discussion Meet,” Heck said. “The discussion meet is a great opportunity to talk with peers about the great things going on in the agriculture industry as well as things that need to be worked on. I always come away from a discussion learning something new about the topic or another peer’s involvement in the industry.”
Heck serves as Third Member on the Monroe County Farm Bureau board and is a graduate of Michigan State University where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in crops and soil science.
After a dozen regional contests across the state, 26 participants competed in two opening rounds. Round three saw the field cut to 16 semifinalists, and then four finalists faced off to determine the statewide winner.
The other three finalists were Brenda Sisung of Clinton County; Kyle McCarty of Sanilac County; and Katie Sollman of Mecosta County.
This year’s discussion topics addressed four current issues of concern among the agricultural community:
- Preliminary Round 1: Is big data a big solution or big exposure? Technology tools are often cited as a method of increasing productivity and profitability, but there are liabilities that go along with technology. As young farmers and ranchers we are often first adopters. How do we ensure clear understanding of the risks and rewards of big data and smart farming?
- Preliminary Round 2: The decline in rural populations is accelerated by a poor farm economy. What solutions would enhance the vibrancy and economic sustainability of agriculture and rural communities?
- Sweet 16 Round: The increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters creates additional risk for farmers and ranchers. What tools and production practices can be engaged to reduce climate and weather risks?
- Final Round: International trade is important to agriculture. We must continue working to build strong relations with existing customers while seeking out new trade partners to strengthen market stability. How can we enhance existing, and establish new and diverse foreign trading partners?
As winner of MFB’s 2020 Young Farmer Discussion Meet, Heck receives $2,000, sponsored by AIS Equipment, and will represent Michigan virtually in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Young Farmer & Rancher Discussion Meet in January 2021.
As part of the 2021 American Farm Bureau Federation’s Young Farmer and Rancher Discussion Meet competition, Heck will be competing against a field of national competitors for these coveted prizes:
- First place: a new Ford vehicle (up to a value of $35,000) and paid registration to the Farm Bureau FUSION Conference, courtesy of Ford.
- Second place: Case IH Farmall 50A, courtesy of Case IH.
- Third place: Case IH 40-inch Combination Roll Cabinet and Top Chest and $500 Case IH parts card, courtesy of Case IH; a $2,500 Investing in Your Future cash prize, courtesy of American Farm Bureau Insurance Services Inc.; and $1,850 worth of Stanley Black & Decker merchandise (PROTO, DeWalt, Stanley, Lenox & Irwin), courtesy of Stanley Black & Decker.
- Fourth place: Case IH 40-inch Combination Roll Cabinet and Top Chest and a $500 Case IH parts card, courtesy of Case IH.
Discussion Meets are competitions that simulate a committee meeting in which conversation and active participation are expected from each participant. This competition is evaluated on an exchange of ideas and information on a pre-determined topic. Participants build basic discussion skills, develop a keen understanding of important agricultural issues and explore how groups can pool knowledge to reach consensus and solve problems.