REXBURG — A local woman took first place in a national competition and she’s walking away with a brand new Ford pickup.
Marquee Ricks of Newdale was awarded the prize after the final round of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Discussion Meet held virtually last week.
“From what I understand, I am only the second young farmer and rancher from Idaho to ever win the national contest,” Ricks tells EastIdahoNews.com. “The prize was great, but honestly what was even better was to bring home that big win for Idaho.”
Ricks is a member of the Young Farmers and Ranchers, which is affiliated with the Idaho Farm Bureau. The group is open to anyone involved in agriculture between 18 and 35. The Discussion Meet is one of three contests group members can participate in every year.
“It’s an opportunity for young farmers and ranchers to get together and discuss topics that are current issues in agriculture,” Ricks says. “There are five questions posted at the beginning of each year. Everybody (in the group) has all year to look at them and then you compete at your local and state level.”
The questions for this year’s competition revolved around foreign trade, natural disasters, declining rural populations, technology implementation in agriculture and broadband access in rural America.
Ricks says it’s easy to think of the competition as a debate, but it’s really a collaborative process of working together to analyze problems and bring solutions to the table.
The solutions presented in the competition aren’t necessarily going to become public policy, but Ricks says it motivates her to be informed and involved in the legislative process.
“Some of those issues (are about) changing perspectives among farmers. When we talked about technology, (we learned) there’s not much data protection or agricultural technology information,” says Ricks. “We need to consider what is personal and proprietary information and convince farmers it’s a commodity that should be important to them.”
The contest started off with 29 state winners. Ricks was one of four contestants to participate in the final round. Her competitors were Clarissa Cauthorn from Missouri, Tyler Pittman from Kansas and Garrett Love from Florida.
Idaho Farm Bureau President Bryan Searle says Ricks represented the state well and her victory “brings an energy and excitement to Idaho Farm Bureau that will have lasting effects on the organization in the many years to come.”
“I watched all four rounds and she was professional, knowledgeable and most importantly, very considerate and full of ideas and solutions in every one of them,” Searle says in a news release.
Marquee Ricks, top left, with her competitors in the final round of the American Farm Bureau Federation Discussion Meet. | Courtesy Sean Ellis, Idaho Farm Bureau
Ricks and her husband, Brett, have been part of the Farm Bureau for about six years. They were introduced to it by a friend, who invited them to a Young Farmers and Ranchers convention. They enjoyed the experience and that prompted them to get involved.
Ricks grew up in Alaska and was not familiar with farming or ranching when she first moved to Idaho. She originally moved to Rexburg to attend Brigham Young University-Idaho as a nursing student. She met her husband on a blind date, who just happened to be a farmer from Newdale.
“My husband took me to see a potato pit when we were dating early on and that just about blew my mind,” she says. “There are dozens and dozens of potato pits on (state) highway 33, but it floored me (at the time) because it was so new (to me).”
Agriculture is something she’s become really passionate about in the years since and she loves living in Newdale. She and her husband have three children and together they love raising wheat, barley and mustard on 1,200 acres of farmland.
“I don’t think farming is going to make us rich … but to me it doesn’t matter. I wouldn’t want to do anything else because (we can see each other and work together) all the time. There’s not a lot of careers that afford that,” Ricks says.
Though Ricks is honored for this recognition, she says her competitors were just as deserving and she’s grateful for the opportunity she had to work with them.
Ricks says she hasn’t got her new pickup yet because she’s still waiting for the paperwork. She anticipates getting it in the next several weeks.