Courtesy of Peter Hecht

A high school teacher from Kern County earned top honors in the California Young Farmers & Ranchers Open Discussion Meet for his discussion on the tools available and programs needed to help young farmers and ranchers gain access to capital to start an agricultural business.

  Timothy Collins, who teaches agricultural mechanics in Bakersfield and who said he hopes to farm in the future, emerged as the winner in the competition held during the California Farm Bureau YF&R Annual Meeting in Reno, Nevada.

 The Open Discussion Meet featured YF&R participants from across the state. They advanced to the final competition from earlier rounds in which they were challenged to demonstrate their abilities in exchanging ideas and offering detailed opinions on important issues for agriculture.

 Cheyenne Erickson of Antioch in Contra Costa County was first runner-up in the contest. The other finalists were Daniel Jones of Dixon in Solano County and Lillian Smith of Wheatland in Yuba County.

 As the winner of the Open Discussion Meet, Collins earned $5,000. First runner-up Erickson received $1,000, and finalists Jones and Smith each received $500. The winner will represent California in the national contest during the American Farm Bureau Federation annual conference Jan. 19-24 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

 Clayton Merrill, who majors in agricultural communications at California State University, Fresno, was named the winner of the Collegiate Discussion Meet, which was also held during the Farm Bureau Annual Meeting.

 During the collegiate contest, 13 YF&R members from four colleges competed in discussing a question on how Farm Bureau can address water management challenges and seek long-term solutions for farmers and ranchers.

 As winner, Merrill earns $1,250 and will represent California in the national competition during the American Farm Bureau Federation’s YF&R Leadership Conference set for March 8-11 in Omaha, Nebraska.