Geneseo’s Megan (Seys) Dwyer spent her weekend in New Orleans, La., discussing agriculture with farm supporters from across the nation.

Geneseo’s Megan (Seys) Dwyer spent her weekend in New Orleans, La., discussing agriculture with farm supporters from across the nation.

As the winner of the 2018 Illinois Farm Bureau Young Leaders Discussion Meet, Dwyer advanced to the national contest at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 100th annual meeting.

Dwyer advanced to the Sweet 16 round at the national contest.

“To make it to the national level and be able to have your story and your voice shared at that type of event is truly a unique opportunity,” said Dwyer.

The discussion meet judges contestants’ ability to manage a small group discussion. Each contestant gives an opening statement. Participants exchange facts and insights on a predetermined topic. Judges award points based on how well participants work with one another, how well they express themselves, and on their knowledge of the topic.

The contest’s format is a “discussion, not a debate” explained Dwyer, who participated in two opening rounds before advancing to the Sweet 16.

“It didn’t really sink in that I was at the national contest until I got there and started seeing the other competitors and people who were prepping for the contest,” she said.

The first round topic was on how the Farm Bureau can best protect farmers’ and ranchers’ access to production technology options. In the second round, Dwyer was faced with discussing how Farm Bureau can be more inclusive of all agriculture and production practices.

“(Illinois) is predominantly corn and soybeans, but agriculture on the east and west coasts is so diverse,” said Dwyer. “It was interesting hearing about programs from across the different states.”

“A big difference between the state and national levels was that with the broad regional differences at nationals, you had to be ready for the conversations to branch many different ways and be prepared to run with wherever the discussion led you,” she said.

In the Sweet 16 round, contestants were asked how the agriculture industry could attract the best minds from science, technology, engineering and math into agricultural careers.

Prior to attending the national meet, Dwyer said her goal was to make the Sweet 16 round.

“However, once I made the Sweet 16, I really wanted to get to the Final Four,” she admits. “It was disappointing not to advance, but I feel like the prep work I had done had me very well prepared.”

During the Sweet 16 round, Dwyer lost to Kansas’ representative, Jackie Mundt, who eventually went on to win the entire contest.

“It makes me feel a little better to know I lost to the eventual winner,” said Dwyer.

Individuals can only win a state meet once, so advancing to the national contest was “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” that Dwyer called “a neat experience.”

A graduate of Orion High School and Iowa State University, Dwyer and her husband, Todd, live in rural Geneseo with their three children.