Cal Poly Students Master the Art of Discussion

Twenty minutes, four competitors, one question. In a single round of the Young Farmers and Ranchers Collegiate Discussion Meet contest, competitors strive to display their agricultural knowledge and commitment to improving the industry.

In order to be successful one must perform a balancing act by presenting original and fact-based thoughts while helping to facilitate discussion in a cordial manner.

Over the past several days at the 2015 Young Farmers and Ranchers Conference, competitors from across California have aimed to do just this.


With four rounds in total, the topics of discussion ranged from strategies to expand and improve the American Farm Bureau Federation, to ways to determine liability in the case of food borne illness, to the pros and cons of government vs. private land ownership.

The competition took place this past weekend in Sacramento, Calif. It was conducted through a tournament structure with two preliminary rounds, narrowed down to the elite eight competitors, and eventually the final four. Student competitors came from three agriculture based colleges: Cal Poly, SLO; Fresno State University; Modesto Junior College.


Cal Poly was well represented by four individuals: agricultural communication junior Harrison Reilly, agricultural education major Riley Nilsen (elite eight), agricultural communication senior Ariana Joven, and agricultural communication junior Kenna Lewis.

In the end, the green and gold prevailed as Cal Poly took the first place team award. Ariana Joven was in the final four and received a $500 scholarship and Kenna Lewis was named the 2015 State Champion receiving a $1250 scholarship. Kenna will advance to the national competition at the AFBF Fusion conference in Kansas City, Missouri in February 2016.

Harrison Reilly, Riley Nilsen, Kenna Lewis, Arian JovenIMG_4245

See what some of the Cal Poly team members enjoyed about the event and some tips they have for future competitors…

Ariana Joven

Favorite Part: Collaborating with other students about the issue at hand. Each round not only allowed me to share my knowledge, but it also opened my eyes to other perspectives I had not considered. Overall, it was a great learning experience!

Advice: One suggestion I have for future competitors is to begin researching far ahead of time and know your facts!

Harrison Reilly

Favorite Part: Getting the opportunity to meet fellow bright agricultural minds from across the state.

Advice: Practice is key. Make sure you understand the format of the competition and watch videos of discussion meets on YouTube.

Kenna Lewis

Favorite Part: It was fun to see students I competed with in high school, and see how much all of us have grown and improved. I was so impressed with how knowledgeable everyone was on a diverse array of topics.

Advice: Develop solutions and possible conversation structures for each question ahead of time. It helps frame the discussion and helps you remember your talking points.

Advice: Develop solutions and possible conversation structures for each question ahead of time. It helps frame the discussion and helps you remember your talking points.


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