The year is 2014. A seven-year-old girl stands up to give a 10-minute presentation about rocks, her first speech ever. At the time, the girl had no idea that she would one day be competing in a national public speaking competition almost 10 years later. All she knew was that one of her favourite things in the whole world was public speaking. And today, I can still say that’s true, because that seven-year-old girl was me.

In November 2023, I was honoured to represent Snapshots 4-H Photography Club and 4-H British Columbia at the Canadian Young Speakers for Agriculture (CYSA) competition during the 101st Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto, ON. Traveling from Vancouver Island, BC, I was one of 12 speakers representing British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and even Scotland.

Hosted annually since 1985, the CYSA competition is a national platform for youth to develop their public speaking and communication skills by expressing their opinions and ideas on current topics related to agriculture and agri-food. Competitors prepare and deliver a five-to-seven-minute speech on any topic related to agriculture, aquaculture, food science or food security within a Canadian context.

My speech shared a snapshot of agriculture’s future and how it can be part of the solution to climate change. Specifically, I focused on strategic grazing, exploring how it can be used to improve the health of Canada’s grasslands and reduce the size and intensity of wildfires. Climate change was one of the many topics discussed by the speakers, as well as industry awareness and education, soil science, dairy breeds, and personal experience with farming and agriculture.

I am honoured to be named the new Canadian Champion, but even more honoured to have had the opportunity to stand beside passionate youth from across the country (and across the pond) and share about an industry near to my heart. I may carry the title, but it is the agriculture industry that deserves the true win. I hope you, as youth involved in agriculture, tap into your courage and share your unique perspectives with the world.

Public speaking may seem nerve-wracking, but deep down, we are all a lot braver than we think, and I know you can challenge yourself to go farther than you ever thought you could. Your story deserves to be heard, and only you have the voice to share it. I can’t wait to hear what you have to say.

Thank you to 4-H British Columbia, The Royal Agriculture Winter Fair, and Canadian Young Speakers for Agriculture – without your support, my amazing experience wouldn’t have been possible.

To learn more about Canadian Young Speakers for Agriculture and how to apply for future competitions, visit www.cysa-joca.ca.

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