Kristin Klager of the Saline FFA was the state winner of the Michigan Farm Bureau’s Youth Discussion Meet, held Nov. 29 at the organization’s annual meeting in Grand Rapids. The Michigan Farm Bureau Young Farmer program supports Youth Discussion Meets at the regional and state levels for 4-H and FFA members, dependents of Farm Bureau members or students interested in agriculture. Six regional contests occur in the fall. From each region, the top three individuals are chosen to compete at the state contest.
The Discussion Meets are not debates but rather a way for participants to freely discuss current topics affecting agriculture to share ideas, identify the cause and effect of a problem, and evaluate and compare alternative solutions while practicing their public speaking and analytical skills.
Klager said she didn’t feel as knowledgeable as some of the other contestants in the state preliminary round that focused on the sustainability of agriculture regarding the environment, social concerns, and the changes farmers have made to help improve how they manage environmental resources. “I learned a lot from the other participants’ comments about policies and regulations that have affected farmers’ abilities to manage their farms and resources” she said, “I added thoughts when I could and felt I contributed to the discussion.”
Klager, along with five other students, advanced to the final round which asked contestants to discuss contributing factors to the gradual aging of the farming population, and ways we can attract more young people into production agriculture with new or existing programs. “I was excited about that topic”, said Klager, as she had previously written and spoken about it in other FFA activities. “The participants were focusing on ways to involve more boys and young men in farming, so when I posed the idea about finding ways to encourage more girls and young women to get involved in agriculture; I felt like that added a spark, not only to the discussion, but also the audience interest as well,” Klager said.
Klager’s first place award includes a $300 prize underwritten by the American Farm Bureau Foundation. She is grateful to the Washtenaw County Farm Bureau for sponsoring her Amway Grand Plaza overnight stay at the competition. “It’s the fanciest place I ever stayed in my life,” she said. She also credits the Saline FFA program with improving her leadership and public speaking skills. “I was really shy as a freshman, but I’ve gradually become more confident expressing myself because of opportunities I’ve had thru FFA projects and events.”
Klager is a senior at Saline High School and the current president of the Saline FFA chapter. She is the daughter of Lisa and Randy Klager of Bridgewater. Her family farms about 1000 acres of corn, wheat, soybeans and hay, and also raises about 100 head of beef cattle. Kristin recently ventured into a new FFA project raising 10 hogs which will reach their market weight sometime in late spring or early summer. “We’ve never had pigs on our farm before. It’s been fun”, she said.
Klager plans to pursue basic studies at Washtenaw Community College, before deciding on a major. She enjoys farming but also harbors an interest in Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement.