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WISCONSIN DELLS - Winning the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Discussion Meet was a shock for the Young Farmer and Agriculturist (YFA) winner and a bucket list item for the Collegiate Discussion winner. 

Kelly Wilfert of Manitowoc County was selected as the winner of the 2018 Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmer and Agriculturist Discussion Meet contest at the organization’s 99th Annual Meeting in Wisconsin Dells on Dec. 2.

The Discussion Meet contest is a panel discussion in which Farm Bureau members between the ages of 18 and 35 are judged on their ability to express their ideas and opinions and reach a solution on current issues affecting agriculture. 

Kati Kindschuh, a senior at UW-River Falls, was selected the winner of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau’s Collegiate Discussion Meet contest.

The Collegiate Discussion Meet is a panel discussion in which collegiate members are judged on their ability to lead a committee discussion on current issues affecting agriculture and to develop consensus on an action plan to effectively address issues.

Kelly Wilfert

Winning the contest was a shock to Wilfert. 

"I am young compared to many of the other competitors. I was active in the collegiate Farm Bureau meet and won that three years ago," said Wilfert. "I am honored that Wisconsin Farm Bureau feels that I am a good representation of what a YFA member in discussion meet does, but I know that it could be anyone on any different day. We have so many strong members throughout the state."

Wilfert grew up on her family's 700 acre vegetable farm in Two Rivers. She followed that interest to a degree in ag economics and life sciences communications at UW-Madison. Now in her second year at the Wisconsin Law School in Madison, Wilfert is looking forward to continuing to work in agricultural law and policy. 

Wilfert stayed involved with the Farm Bureau while in college, served as an FFA officer where she was a  timekeeper for the YFA discussion meet and decided to join Farm Bureau as a result. 

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She is a director on the Manitowoc County Farm Bureau board, she served as a state FFA officer, worked on the Exhibit Development Committee for Farm Wisconsin Discovery Center, interns at Investors Community Bank and served AFBF as an intern in Washington, D.C.

Discussion contest issues this year were less economic and law related and focused more on membership, Wilfert explained - how to provide value to associate members and how to make sure all production practices from all types of farming feel welcome. 

Wilfert will represent Wisconsin at the American Farm Bureau Annual Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, in January. Each finalist received a jacket courtesy of GROWMARK, Inc.

The other discussion meet finalists included Jenny Leahy, Fond du Lac County; Julie Sweney, Dodge County; and Kallie Jo Kastenson, Racine County.

Kati Kindschuh

For the past few years, winners of the Farm Bureau's Collegiate Discussion meet have been mentors and "great colleagues" of Kindschuh's, "so to be in the same rank as them is extremely satisfying for me," she said. "I’ve done this for quite a few years, so it’s kind of a bucket list item."

Kindschuh graduates in two weeks from UW-River Falls where she is studying agricultural marketing communications and agricultural business. She grew up in Brownsville on her family’s 65-cow-dairy farm where she found her love for Holstein and Jersey cattle while exhibiting at the Fond du Lac County and Wisconsin State Fair. After graduation she will be employed by United Cooperative as a marketing communication specialist.

By participating in the Collegiate Discussion Meet, members 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.

This year's problem revolved around science, engineering and math in school systems and how students in those disciplines and classes can be encouraged to consider a career in agriculture. The discussion topics can be a challenge Kindschuh as contestants struggle to come up with a solution that hasn't been said before and isn't exhausted. 

Kindschuh received a $1,500 scholarship courtesy of GROWMARK, Inc., and will represent Wisconsin in the National Collegiate Discussion Meet held in conjunction with the American Farm Bureau FUSION Conference in Milwaukee in March.

Second runner-up was Heidi Smith. Third runner-up was Casey Lobdell. Both Smith and Lobdell are students at UW-Platteville. Second and third place finalists each received a $500 scholarship courtesy of Waukesha County Farm Bureau.

Other finalists included Rachel Gerbitz and Emily Matzke from UW-Madison and Jacob Timm from UW-River Falls.

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