The mission of the University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) is to educate and prepare students to address the world’s most critical challenges. Graduating food and resource economics senior Maddie Dvorak took this mission personally.
Last fall, Maddie decided to compete in a student organization-offered competition focused on discussing major issues in agriculture and natural resources. The UF Collegiate Farm Bureau chapter conducts this annual contest, called the discussion meet, to encourage and challenge young leaders to learn while creating early involvement opportunities for students and Farm Bureau.
As part of the contest, up to four competitors are given an issue to discuss and collaboratively develop solutions. Each competitor gives opening remarks individually, followed by a 20-minute open forum in which all participants tie solutions and ideas to the work of their local or national Farm Bureau agencies. Finally, each competitor gives closing remarks to recap what they learned and how they believe agriculture and natural resources should move forward.
“I have always valued applying knowledge outside the classroom,” said Maddie. “I am a hands-on learner and UF CALS has opened the door to take advantage of numerous opportunities.” As a student in the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Maddie has consistently been encouraged to apply her classroom knowledge to other experiences. Implementing this approach, she has taken advantage of opportunities such as attending conferences across the nation, completing internships and engaging in extracurricular organizations like Collegiate Farm Bureau.
With a steadfast passion for the industry and active involvement through Collegiate Farm Bureau, Maddie’s preparation for her chapter and state competitions was fueled by a desire to advocate for Florida agriculture.
Maddie understands that Florida’s agriculture industry is largely composed of smaller specialty crops. “Compared to the rest of the nation, Florida is at a disadvantage and is often left out of the conversation from overarching issues facing American agriculture,” said Maddie. “Speaking to producers from all over the nation, including Iowa and Alabama, helped me understand our industry on the national scale.”
With victories at both the local and state competitions, Maddie advanced to the national discussion meet held at the 2023 American Farm Bureau FUSION Conference. Maddie became the first Floridian to take home the national title.
Maddie’s winning performance throughout the competition is due to her talent, speaking skills and critical thinking in solving complex issues. Her preparation, however, she attributes to an incredible network of CALS alumni and partners who offered her guidance and advice.
Maddie further shared her gratitude for Florida Farm Bureau, a major supporter throughout her various involvements, including the CALS Ambassador Program. “I have been blessed with the best support group through this process,” she said. “CALS students and staff alike truly prepared me for this event, and that’s why CALS will be a home away from home.”
ABOUT THE UF/IFAS COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURAL AND LIFE SCIENCES
The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) administers the degree programs of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). The mission of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences is to deliver unsurpassed educational programs that prepare students to address the world’s critical challenges related to agriculture, food systems, human wellbeing, natural resources and sustainable communities. The college has received more total (national and regional combined) USDA teaching awards than any other institution.