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Ferrum College senior wins Young Farmers Collegiate Discussion Meet

Ferrum College senior wins Young Farmers Collegiate Discussion Meet

Ryan Gobble, a senior at Ferrum College, earned first place in Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s 16th Annual Collegiate Young Farmers Discussion Meet, held Nov. 10 at Ferrum College.

First runner-up was Maddie Moore, a senior at Virginia Tech. Other finalists were Stephanie Staats and Josie Stanberry, also seniors at Ferrum.

The Collegiate Discussion Meet competition is designed to simulate a roundtable committee meeting in which discussion, cooperation and active participation are expected from each contestant. Competitors are judged on their discussion skills, understanding of important agricultural issues and ability to build consensus.

In this year’s competition, eight Virginia-based college students discussed four pre-determined topics—strengthening collaboration between farmers and elected leaders; advancing sustainability goals with market-based solutions; engaging diverse agricultural communities; and addressing water management challenges.

In the final round, the four finalists shared ideas on helping young farmers access the necessary capital to start and grow their operations.

Participants explored ways to “get the young farmer that may not have a traditional agriculture background the opportunity to be on the farm, as well as continue to farm,” Gobble said.

“As someone who doesn’t come from a traditional agriculture background, it’s extremely daunting to look into production agriculture because of the financial side,” Moore said. “We want to make sure there’s curriculum and resources available to teach farmers how to make sound financial decisions.”

Participants highlighted programs like The Farm Credit Knowledge Center, which offers curriculum on accessing capital, business planning, farm management and more for both young farmers and high school students.

“I think that’s so important, because with agriculture, you’re teaching so many lifelong skills,” Moore said.

Gobble added that the global population is anticipated to grow significantly by 2050—likely requiring farmers to produce over 36% more goods than farmers today.

“That task will be on the young agriculturalists of tomorrow, so helping them is going to be imperative to making sure that we have enough food, fiber and fuel for our growing world,” he said.

Gobble, who grew up in Washington County, is majoring in agricultural sciences and minoring in agribusiness, biology and health and educational studies. He’s considering graduate school and a possible career in agricultural advocacy and education.

He fostered a lifelong passion for agriculture while growing up on his family’s farm and participating in local 4-H activities and FFA chapters. He has competed in two previous Collegiate Young Farmers Discussion Meets.

“If you have a passion for agriculture, your voice needs to be heard, and this is an excellent way to talk about the issues we see and make a positive impact on the future,” Gobble said.

Runner-up Moore is majoring in agricultural sciences and minoring in leadership and social change, with future career goals in agricultural advocacy and education. She also grew up in Washington County and found a passion for agriculture in FFA and through various leadership roles.

She competed in a previous Collegiate Young Farmers Discussion Meet.

The state winner is awarded a $500 prize courtesy of Southern Farm Life Insurance Co. and VFBF Young Farmers. Gobble also can receive up to $2,000 in scholarships, and he and Moore earned travel packages to the 2024 American Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers & Ranchers Collegiate Discussion Meet, to be held in March in Omaha, Nebraska. All competitors earned cash prizes from VFBF.

With almost 135,000 members in 88 county Farm Bureaus, VFBF is Virginia’s largest farmers’ advocacy group. Farm Bureau is a non-governmental, nonpartisan, voluntary organization committed to supporting Virginia’s agriculture industry.

Contact Pam Wiley, vice president of communications, at 804-291-6315.