Pandemic doesn’t curb passion of young speakers

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The COVID-19 pandemic did not stop youth from across the province from standing up and speaking loud and clear about agriculture.

The 2020 Alberta Young Speakers for Agriculture event moved to a digital format this year after the pandemic cancelled the Calgary Stampede, where it is usually held.

It presented a tough challenge for the speakers, but one they did not shy away from, said association president Chancey Lane.

“We were excited to see people were able to adapt to our new format,” Lane said.

Tia Schram of Bruderheim captured top honours in the senior category for her presentation on “Lessons learned over the last 25 years of agriculture – and how we can apply it to the next 25.”

That topic was also addressed by Leslie Siewert of Cayley, the winner in the junior category.

The senior runner-up, Calgarian Claire Meier, and junior runner-up, Austin Noirot of Carline, spoke on the topic of whether the ag sector should fund and support opportunities for youth development. Third place in the junior category went to Aksha Burande of Calgary who spoke about the future of aquaculture as a food source.

Judge Rob Smith said public speaking can be difficult, which is why it’s always impressive to see youth stand up in front of a camera or crowd and talk about something they are passionate about.

“We have nothing but respect for the skills that the kids put forth in this contest in this different format,” said Smith, adding public speaking is a skill that provides lifetime benefits.

The event offers youth ages 11 to 24 an opportunity to share their views on a topic important to Alberta and Canadian agriculture. The organization’s website is

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