As the winner of the 2020 Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers & Ranchers Discussion Meet, Matthew Poe represents the best of young Mississippi farmers. A generational farmer from Pontotoc, Mississippi, Poe’s rich background in the agriculture industry has driven him to excel on his farm and in his community.
“This program has taught me to share what I know about the agriculture industry,” Poe says. “It has given me a voice.”
The YF&R Discussion Meet allows young people in agriculture to discuss and suggest solutions to key issues facing our nation’s agriculture industry. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Discussion Meet competition was held virtually in December. Despite the changes, contestants did not stop adapting and benefiting from the experience.
“The virtual competition was different, but I think we can learn from it,” Poe says.
Although he valued his experience, he remains hopeful for in-person events in the future.
“I still prefer the interaction with people, and we will get back to that one day, but I expect to see a combination of in-person and virtual events moving forward,” he says.
Despite the limits the virtual event put on the contestants, the Discussion Meet still provided an important opportunity for young farmers to network.
“These programs provide young farmers and ranchers with experience they will need for the future,” says Randy Johns, CEO of the Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company, which sponsors the event each year. “It helps equip them with the leadership skills they will use as leaders of agriculture and as leaders of their communities.”
Johns believes the future of Mississippi agriculture is bright, based on his interactions with members of the YF&R program and Discussion Meet contestants.
“If the group that we’ve met and recognized are any indication of what the future of Mississippi agriculture is going to be like, I think we’re in great hands,” he says.
Stepping up as the next generation of agriculture is what the YF&R Discussion Meet is all about for Poe.
“Networking with other young farmers and ranchers and learning from their experiences is how we can best grow as farmers and further ourselves individually,” he says.
Poe has been active in the YF&R program for several years and was recognized as the 2019 MFBF YF&R Achievement Award recipient, along with his wife Kayla. The networking opportunities provided by Farm Bureau are greatly valued by the Poes.
“Being able to discuss and share with others about agriculture is something about which I am extremely passionate,” Poe says.
Poes’s award came with numerous rewards. The prize included a 4-wheeler, compliments of Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company; $850, compliments of Southern AgCredit; and $500, compliments of Gray-Daniels Ford.