It's been 28 years since a young farmer from Michigan found the winner's circle at the national-level Farm Bureau discussion meet, but that long drought was quenched this week by Huron County farmer Nathan Prill. The Bad Axe native bested a field of the nation's finest through four rounds of competition at the American Farm Bureau Federation's 95th Annual Meeting and Convention, Jan. 12-15 in San Antonio, Texas.
Michigan's last national-level discussion meet winner was Larry Priest in 1986.
Prill got to the national stage by winning the state-level Young Farmer discussion meet at Michigan Farm Bureau's 2013 Annual Meeting, Dec. 3 in Grand Rapids.
"Nathan did such an amazing job at our state meet last month that I can't say I was surprised to see him take the whole enchilada in San Antonio," says Jason Jaekel, manager of the MFB Young Farmer department.
Young Farmers ages 18-35 are eligible to compete in the state event after successfully advancing through district meets. Contestants are judged on their analysis of the topic, delivery and cooperative attitude.
Discussion meet topics included positive agricultural promotion, working with officials to better manage regulation, encouraging Farm Bureau involvement, stimulating economic growth and on-farm safety for young people.
"I wasn't a judge, but what I think set Nathan apart was his very natural, comfortable conversational style," Jaekel says. "And of course it didn't hurt that he's got a pretty masterful command of the issues."
After three preliminary and semifinal rounds, the best four contestants advanced to the finals, where Prill faced stiff competitors from Illinois, Maryland and Wisconsin.
Prill grew up on a dairy farm near Bad Axe and relished the opportunity to return to his home county after college. By day he works as executive director of the Huron County Farm Service Agency. Outside the office he still works on his parent's dairy farm, and has begun growing vegetables for fresh market sales direct to local consumers.
As the national winner, Prill earned his choice of a 2014 Chevy Silverado or a 2014 GMC Sierra pickup truck; and paid registration to the 2014 AFBF YF&R Leadership Conference, Feb. 7-10 in Virginia Beach, Va.