December 20, 2018

Student set to compete in national competition; discussion focuses on equal representation for women and minorities in the agriculture industry

by Hannah Erickson

Ryan Reeverts CARBONDALE, Ill. — Change is never easy, especially not at the industry level. However, as the agriculture field continues to develop nationwide, adjustments are constantly necessary. That’s why the American Farm Bureau is set to hold a national competition for students to present and discuss potential changes, with Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Ryan Reeverts right in the thick of it.

For Reeverts, the competition started in November at the Illinois Professional Agriculture Student Organization conference. As one of seventeen students to compete in the Collegiate Farm Bureau Discussion meet, Reeverts engaged in lively discussion focused on current topics in the agriculture industry, and eventually took home first place.

Competition focuses on improving agriculture practices nationwide

The goal of the event was to bring open discussion to find new solutions to common agriculture problems. One of the key things the event focused on was promoting a variety of groups in the agricultural field. The students spent time considering how to bring more diversity to the industry, and discussed topics such as women in agriculture, minorities in agriculture, organic producers versus conventional producers and others.

“One of the topics focused on how Farm Bureau can work to be a voice for all of those producers that are part of the agriculture industry,” Reeverts said. “The goal is to represent everyone equally on a state and federal level in terms of public policy and the government.”

While students do extensive research on the topics before entering the official discussion, they cannot bring notes in to the competition. This pushes the students to build a strong information base for themselves, and then use critical thinking and presenting skills to persuade others.

“Preparation for this event takes a lot of individual research and general knowledge about the industry,” Reeverts said.

That foundation not only helps participants stay competitive, but it also gives new insights to tough subjects and prepares them for their future careers.

“One thing I try to focus on is looking at what has worked for other states,” Reeverts said. “I then work to understand how that might fit for Illinois, or on a national scale.”

In recognition of his work, Reeverts, sophomore from Byron, Illinois, was honored in December at the IAA annual meeting at the Illinois Farm Bureau Young Leaders session.

Set to represent Illinois at national championship

After winning at the state level, Reeverts is gearing up for the national competition set for the first weekend in March. He will travel to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and compete as the Illinois representative in the Young Farmers and Ranchers Collegiate Farm Bureau Discussion meet. Reeverts’ hope is to bring fresh ideas to the agriculture world at both the state and national level. While still a competitive event, the contest also helps build industry connections and develop the participants as valuable agriculture leaders.

Long history in agriculture

Growing up on a farm, agriculture has always been the perfect fit for Reeverts. After high school, he attended Highland Community College for a year before being appointed State FFA Officer as a reporter in the summer of 2017. He served a year in that position before transferring to the agricultural systems and education program at SIU.

Now, Reeverts stays involved in agriculture in a variety of ways, including serving as secretary of SIU’s section of Collegiate FFA and as a member of the Collegiate Farm Bureau student organization. In November, Reeverts was also elected as the Illinois president of the Professional Agricultural Student Organization. As president, he will represent the organization at the national scale, plan the annual PAS conference and work to improve the organization at the state level.

After graduation, Reeverts is hoping to either jump into an agriculture industry career, or work as an agriculture teacher. But, regardless of where he starts, his end goal is to return to his families’ farm and carry on the legacy as the fifth generation to run the operation.

“Whether I am a high school agriculture instructor or working in the industry, a lot of what we do is educate others,” Reeverts said. “Being knowledgeable of these different topics prepares me to educate people, regardless of where I am in agriculture.”