Cultivating Communication

Cultivating Communication

Auburndale FFA Member Jacquelyn Edler Wins Essay Contest Connecting Agriculture Consumers, Producers

by PAUL CATALA

Jacquelyn Edler hopes to someday land a career in the creative fields of animation or storyboarding for cartoons and movies. But for the time-being, Edler is delving into other fields, in a more literal sense. 

A junior at Auburndale High School, Edler is a member of the school’s Future Farmers of America (FFA) program. In November, Edler, 16, was the first-ever winner of the Polk County Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers (YF&R) Committee’s “Farm-City Week Essay Contest.”

For that contest, the essay topic was “How can agriculture producers educate consumers in a way that builds lasting relationships between the producers and consumers?” 

In her essay, Edler describes what she perceives as the general public’s naivety in knowing or indifference in finding out what it takes to get their food from farm to table, citing studies that show less than 2 percent of the United States’ population is directly involved in food production or even knows where or how their food is grown and produced. 

Edler, 16, suggests that one way to get the public – particularly people living in urban areas – to get a better grasp on the food production process is by example. She says those involved in the industry can “educate consumers by teaching them about sustainable agriculture and giving them hands-on experience through planned agricultural events.” 

However, first, Edler writes of the need to define “sustainable agriculture” and discusses farmers who are highly aware of their spending and profits and “knowing that high prices and low quality don’t go together in the eyes of the consumer.”

“Making consumers understand the process that goes into what they’re buying will strengthen their trust in their producers and create a longer lasting partnership,” she writes. 

In her essay, Edler also suggests consumers get educated on agricultural practices through hands-on experiences, citing examples such as Michigan State University Extension’s “Breakfast on the Farm” program, which studies show helped build trust in farming through direct contact with a working dairy farm.

Edler ends with the idea that consumers, who are more educated in what they’re buying, along with farmers, “who are honest in their manufacturing,” can create a trust that enhances their relationship and “further brightens the future of agriculture, one root at a time.”

“A lot of people don’t know if they can trust farmers,” she says. “They need to know farmers are about more than just money; it’s about putting time and effort and care into what they’re producing.”

It has been Edler’s ability to dig deeper than the figurative topsoil of her agricultural education that has allowed her to excel in her FFA programs and to win the Farm-City Week Essay Contest, say her FFA advisors at Auburndale High School, Kim Shaske and Michael McCracken.

McCracken describes Edler as one of his more laid-back students. He says he was aware of her artistic abilities and knew she would excel in the writing contest when he asked her to participate.

“She took this opportunity because she knows of its importance. She tends to be shy, but given an opportunity like this, it allows her to open up and shine. She did an outstanding job writing this,” he says. 

Shaske says although Edler is a “very quiet and reserved young lady,” she excels in drawing, music, designing gardens and growing plants. In addition to being an FFA member, Edler is also Auburndale’s FFA chaplain. 

In an email, Shaske describes Edler as a “city girl” whose observations about agricultural living are keen and astute. 

“When we proofed the essay, we felt she had done an exceptional job with it,” says Shaske. “It was very well put together and was right on target for the essay topic. We were both very impressed with it. We are very proud that she took on the challenge of the essay and was chosen the winner of the contest.”

The Farm-City Week Essay Contest was conceived by Lake Wales’ Warner University Senior Marisol Tarango during her internship with the Polk County Farm Bureau.  According to the Farm Bureau, the YF&R Committee plans to continue the contest in conjunction with Farm-City Week each year. 

Edler— the only child of Susan Mowery and stepfather Dean Holuv—received a $100 Visa gift card for winning the contest.