Rapides Orator Captures Talk Meet Title at 97th Annual Convention of the Louisiana Farm Bureau
By Chuck Cannon, Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation
NEW ORLEANS, La. — If the 2019 Talk Meet at the 97th Annual Convention of the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation in New Orleans is any indication, the future of the state’s agriculture is in good hands.
Sara Ashlyn Toal of Rapides Parish outperformed 11 competitors to win first place in the event that annually pits Louisiana’s best young farm advocates in a contest that showcases their knowledge of agriculture policies and hot topic items.
Bailey Nelson, representing Calcasieu Parish, placed second, and Lily Martinez, representing Pointe Coupee Parish, placed third.
This year’s topic was “How can Farm Bureau help farmers and ranchers provide consumers with accurate information about agriculture?”
“We live in a country where there is a wide gap between (agricultural) producers and consumers, between true facts and logic and exaggerations, rumors and lies,” Toal said during her presentation. “We live in a country where too many children go to school looking down at their lunch plates unable to identify where their food comes from.”
Toal listed two ways to overcome these issues: Educate children and inform consumers.
“We have to engage and educate everyone,” the 19-year-old LSU student said. “Children need to know not just that milk comes from cows and eggs come from chickens, but they need to know the production process.”
Toal said programs like the Louisiana Farm Bureau Ag in the Classroom can help with the education process.
“Ag in the Classroom allows teachers to integrate agriculture education into their everyday curriculum,” she said.
She also urged the Farm Bureau to continue its support of youth organizations such as 4-H and Future Farmers of America.
“They equip and mold future agriculturists through leadership skills and career opportunities,” Toal said.
Toal said Farm Bureau also needs to do a better job of engaging those who believe they are unaffected by what goes on in the world of agriculture.
“We must work to increase our social media presence so we can spread our message,” she said. “More dialog between agriculturists and consumers can lead to more informed citizens on true agriculture. With Louisiana Farm Bureau, we will bridge the gap.”
Toal said this was her first time to compete in the talk meet. She said spent her high school years in FFA, learning how to speak and advocate about agriculture.
“I was surprised (I won),” she said. “I looked at all of the competitors and they were so talented. It was amazing and humbling. I’m excited to have the opportunity to represent an industry I’d so passionate about.”
Each of the judges said they were impressed with the winners, especially their poise and knowledge of the subject matter.
Louisiana Farm Bureau President Ronnie Anderson said the talk meet is a great opportunity for young men and women to gain experience and show their knowledge of agricultural issues.
“These are things we’re going to have to convince the public that are necessary for ag production in the future,” Anderson said. “And these are the perfect young people to do just that.”
Anderson said many of the talk meet competitors go on to do other work for Farm Bureau, government and teaching, educating the population about agriculture.
“We’re proud of young people and they do a great job representing the Louisiana Farm Bureau,” he said.
For more information, visit www.lfbfconvention.org.
Founded in 1922, the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation is the state’s largest general farm organization representing more than 137,000 member families.