The Crook County FFA chapter competed in the Career Development Events competition this week

by: KEVIN SPERL - McKayla Younger, left, Amy Desjardins, Dusti Elliott and Erin Bush review the list of potential topics prior to the start of the parliamentary procedure competition.

Imagine a gym, full of high school students, where it is so quiet you could hear a pin drop. No one is using a cell phone, and all are well dressed.

Welcome to the Future Farmers of America (FFA) Career Development Events competition held at the Highland Baptist Church in Redmond.

Thinking about FFA might conjure up images of students tending to cows, pigs or horses, or possibly preparing fields for spring planting.

But, public speaking skills were the star this past Wednesday, as the Crook County FFA chapter joined teams from North Lake, Redmond, Culver, Madras, Bend, and Sherman County to take part in parliamentary procedure and advanced speaking skills competitions.

Dan McNary, agricultural science teacher at Crook County High School, and the school’s FFA adviser, explained that the 65-year-old Crook County chapter is an integral component of the Agricultural Science program. Comprised of 35 active members and 25 alumni, the club teaches leadership and community service skills.

“Competitions like this allow the students to get out into the public and show what they can do,” said McNary. “They do most of their work on their own and it's a chance to get some well earned recognition for their efforts.”

Crook County’s parliamentary procedure team consisted of President Erin Bush, Vice-President Dusti Elliott, Secretary Amy Desjardins, Treasurer McKayla Younger, Reporter Heather Worlein and Sentinel Ellen Ridenour.

Fellow team member Abby Papke competed in the CREED competition, reciting from memory the almost 300-word statement of FFA beliefs. Cheyenne Young took part in the advanced public speaking competition, addressing future food production issues.

The day opened with a simple question posed to the students, who were all dressed in black slacks, or skirts, and official jackets, emblazoned with the FFA logo.

“Why are we here?” they were asked.

The delegates responding as one.

“To practice brotherhood, honor agricultural opportunities and responsibilities, and develop those qualities of leadership which an FFA member should possess.”

Then it was time to get down to the business of running mock delegate convention meetings.

Competitors had been given a long list of potential topics to be addressed during the convention, held according to Roberts Rules of Order.

Students were expected to discuss issues such as livestock auctions, food nutrition, GMO labeling, the slow food movement, pest control methods and Columbia River water rights.

The first topic of discussion, in which Crook County took part, concerned stricter enforcement of regulations for the production and sale of raw milk. Should the product be banned? Should raw milk be labeled as such? Should cow milk be singled out from other sources? Or, should the public simply be allowed to decide what they drink and leave it at that.

Another round saw Crook County taking to the podium to chair a session. As president, Bush was on the hot seat, moderating discussions on Columbia Basin water rights, adding officers to the state convention and the FFA’s support of low impact development.

“As the chair, I was really nervous,” admitted Bush. “It was a challenge to make sure the meeting was following appropriate procedures, and to maintain order.”

Each chair was responsible for presenting a topic, entertaining motions, conducting votes on amendments and finally, declaring the voting results of the amended resolution, all under the watchful eyes of a panel of judges.

Judges were looking for originality in members’ contribution to discussions, motions and amendments and correctness of following procedural rules. The chair was singled out for administration of parliamentary rules, leadership and managing discussions.

Later in the morning, Crook County was back in the delegation, taking part in a discussion about the slow food movement.

Bush was quick to stand and be recognized in support of the proposal.

“By supporting the slow food movement,” she argued, “we are giving our support to local farmers.”

Delegates from other chapters were quick to disagree, believing that larger production farmers would be hurt, economically.

Being in the delegation took a lot of concentration, according to Elliott.

“It was hard to remember not to simply repeat other delegates,” she said. “There is a lot of pressure to say something unique and relevant.”

Some of the difficulty was of a more practical matter.

“It was just hard getting recognized,” said Desjardins. “We had to make sure we stood up fast enough to be seen by the chair.”

Taking part in such competitions is not all that is expected of FFA members.

On their own time, students are held accountable for a managed project, expecting to track money and time spent, and income gained.

For today, however, the team was satisfied with their performance, despite the difficulty of the topics.

“We could have been better prepared,” said Bush. “ we should have spent more time studying and practicing.”

“It could have gone better,” agreed Elliott, “but, it was a really good experience.”

“I am happy we came and competed,” added Bush. “As a chapter we learned a lot.”

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