A member of 4-H BC took top spot at the Canadian Young Speakers for Agriculture competition during the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto on November 4.
Janel van Dongen of Nanoose Bay was one of 12 speakers from across Canada and Scotland who shared their thoughts and perspectives on the Canadian agriculture industry.
Van Dongen, in her presentation “A Future Painted with Light,” shared a snapshot of agriculture’s future and how it can be part of the solution to climate change. She spoke of how farmers are working to address the realities of climate change by helping restore natural systems that are out of balance, using strategic grazing as an example.
Van Dongen explained how targeted grazing can encourage new growth in grasslands, replenishing this valuable natural resource and advancing carbon sequestration, and also creating a buffer that reduces the size and intensity of wildfires.
The competition’s three judges, including current Canadian Federation of Agriculture president Keith Currie, named van Dongen senior champion. Runners up included Mel Karpenko from Mono, Ontario, and Tenley Warburton from Hanna, Alberta.
Van Dongen is the first participant from BC to win the competition in its 38-year history. At 16, she was among the youngest competitors in the 16-24 age category.
Hosted annually since 1985, CYSA is a national competition that provides youth an opportunity to develop public speaking and communication skills by expressing their opinions and ideas on current topics related to agriculture and agri-food. It is open to both Canadian and international presenters.
The competition includes both junior (11-15) and senior (16-24) categories. Competitors deliver a prepared speech of five to seven minutes on any topic related to agriculture, aquaculture, food science or food security within a Canadian context.
Van Dongen earned her trip to the Royal as part of winning the 4-H BC Provincial Communications Finals in July; 4-H BC covered her travel expenses as part of its award.
Her win at the Royal came with a cash prize and an invitation to speak at the Canadian Federation of Agriculture’s annual general meeting in Ottawa in February.