Agriculture’s next generation wants the public to know the sector is a healthy industry with a future.
For 22-year-old Emily Ritchie of Turner Valley, Alta., promoting the business is something she does on a daily basis in her job as communications manager with a cow-calf operation near Calgary.
She was able to share that enthusiasm in a short speech July 13 at the Calgary Stampede, which won her first place in the Alberta Young Speakers for Agriculture competition.
“I have always been passionate about agriculture,” she said after winning $1,000 and a ticket to the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto, where she will compete at the Young Speakers for Agriculture competition.
“My main goal is preventing the public from biting the hand that feeds it.”
The national program started in 1985 as part of international year of youth events.
She was a public speaker as a member of 4-H and has judged these competitions for about five years. A friend encouraged her to enter the inaugural event this year, where she talked about what the next generation has to offer agriculture.
The idea for a provincial speaking program came from Eric Dalke, a young Calgary lawyer who was originally from a feedlot operation near Morden, Man. He won the national event at Toronto in 2004 and wanted to see a provincial equivalent at the Stampede, where there is a large audience.
Within six months he and others formed a committee, found sponsors, aligned with 4-H and got the Stampede on board.
“The Stampede is a perfect event,” he said.
“What an opportunity for youth to share their passion about agriculture with an audience that is global.”
This year, 20 young people between 11 and 24 entered. They had a choice of five topics and had to deliver a five to seven minute speech. The success of this year’s program has inspired Dalke to build it into an annual event. Interested participants may visit www.albertayoungspeakers.com.