Fresno State junior Hunter Berry (San Jacinto) and the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology’s collegiate discussion meet team won top individual and team honors Feb. 27 at the California Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Leadership Conference in San Luis Obispo.
Berry, a junior agricultural business student, posted the top score in the competition that encourages active and positive group discussion and is hosted by the California Farm Bureau Federation.
Senior agricultural business student Jacob Vazquez (Cottonwood) was also one of four individual finalists.
Fresno State’s team also included agricultural education-communication senior Dominique Germann (Ceres), animal science-livestock business management junior Emma Briggs (Santa Rosa) and animal science-pre-veterinary senior Ana Lopez Campos (Tulare).
Berry earned a $1,250 prize, and Vazquez earned $500 for being a finalist.
Saturday’s honors marked the fifth team and individual titles for the group under the direction of adviser Dr. Steven Rocca, Fresno State agricultural education professor. Other team titles came in 2014, 2013, 2008 and 2006.
“It was an extremely exciting event because I knew all four finalists from FFA events. It was fun to be able to compete against some close friends,” Berry said. “Dr. Rocca did a great job of mentoring us before and during the competition, as well as arranging for guest speakers beforehand such as Ryan Jacobsen from the Fresno County Farm Bureau. Having four of our team members make the semifinals was especially rewarding.”
The one-day event consisted of a pre-determined topic for each of the four rounds. Competitors from Fresno State, Cal Poly and Modesto Junior College were divided into groups of four to five students that made 30-second opening and one-minute closing statements and participated in 25 minutes of shared discussion.
The top combined scorers from the opening two rounds advanced to the semifinal round that was composed of two, four-person groups. The two best individuals from each group advanced to the final round.
Discussion topics included encouraging the acceptance of new agricultural technology and innovation by producers, public and government; policy creation to protect livestock producers from false animal welfare violation accusations; balancing agricultural water needs with community and historic agricultural water rights; and encouraging public support of ‘right to farm’ laws at the state or federal levels.
Berry began his agricultural training in high school classes and FFA activities. At Fresno State, he is pursuing an accounting concentration and hopes to obtain a master’s degree on his banking or financial analysis career path.
“My parents don’t come from agricultural professions, so I was lucky that I had an agricultural education class as a high school freshman that served as a springboard,” Berry said. “After getting more involved with FFA, I
realized how much that I loved the agriculture profession, and it made choosing Fresno State and my major easy. Being a part of our campus agricultural ambassadors programs continues to open up new experiences as we volunteer in the community and encourage prospective students to come to Fresno State.”
Next February, Berry will become the sixth Fresno State student to represent California at the American Farm Bureau’s Collegiate Discussion Meet national competition. Other past Fresno State individual state champions included Levy Randolph (2014), Jake Carlson (2013), Tino Rossi (2011) and Jackie Mundt (2011). Rossi and Randolph won national titles in 2012 and 2015, respectively.
The American Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers and Ranchers program serves agriculturalists between the ages of 18 and 35 who are actively involved in production and affiliated professions. More information is available at www.fb.org/programs/yfr/home.
Other honors from the conference are listed at http://bit.ly/1UyTcX9.