The Colusa County Resource Conservation District held its annual Speak-Off contest on Wednesday, Oct. 5, with three Pierce High School students taking top awards.
“This year the topic is, ‘Based on history, what is your conservation dream and how can Resource Conservation District be involved?’” said Patti Turner as she introduced the judges and timekeeper.
The judges included Colusa RCD Directors Beth Nall and Kim Gallagher, as well as the owner of the Pioneer Review, Lloyd Green Jr. Serving as timekeeper was Bob Alvernaz.
The contest was open to all Colusa County High School students with an interest in natural resources, agriculture or the environment. The speeches were to be given in three to five minutes and could not include props, costumes, or visual aids.
Participants included Pierce High School Seniors Carlyn Marsh and Devin Griffith, and Pierce High School Junior Kelsey Burgess.
“I am impressed by the quality of speeches given each year,” said CCRCD’s Executive Director, Patti Turner.
The students competed for cash awards and the opportunity to advance in the regional contest.
This year’s first place award went to Devin Griffith.
Griffith’s speech gave her take on how RCDs can assist in her conservation dream by participating in school lesson plans with efforts to save the bee population.
“Without the Apis mellifera, known as the honey bee, the whole world could be put at risk,” said Griffith.
Griffith explained the importance of the honey bee though pollination.
“In 2015, 40% of honey bees died due to a factor called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD),” she said. “Although the driving force behind CCD is unknown, one factor plays an influential part in causing it and Varroa Mites.”
She explained how the mites destroy hives and how RCD’s could benefit from partnering with the Pollinator Partnership.
“The organization focuses on pollinator health, through conservation, education, and research,” said Griffith. “They created programs such as the US Bee Buffer and the Honey Bee Health Improvement Project.”
She commented that RCDs have already partnered with the Xerces Society, an organization that aims to save bees that are essential to the environment.
“This goes hand in hand with Pollinator Partnership’s mission statement,” she said. “One project the RCD can implement with the partnership is plant window boxes in elementary schools for pollinators.”
A tie for second place was awarded to both Carlyn Marsh and Kelsey Burgess.
Kelsey Burgess’ speech compared the similarities between environmentalists and agriculturalists and contrasted how they could work together.
“When my Cousin Matt was accepted into the University of Portland, I was so proud of him. Some of my relatives, alternatively, were far from proud when he declared his major in environmental studies,” said Burgess. “They were worried he would be on what we called, the dark side.”
Burgess went on to explain her family has been a part of California farming as far back when California was a part of Spain and how environmentalism and farming are similar.
“The opposition between the two groups is shocking,” said Burgess. “Both groups believe the survival of our environment is crucial to the enhancement of our society.”
Burgess added that both groups respect and appreciate the environment and what it gives to the citizens of the World.
“They have recognized this love in the past and used it to create powerful programs including the Birds Returns program,” said Burgess. “A program was developed with rice growers to provide pop-up wetlands for shorebirds and migratory waterfowl in the central valley.”
Burgess stated that through programs like the Bird Returns, she has a dream that farmers and environmentalists will work together.
“RCDs can help accomplish this dream by sending children on agriculture field trips.” said Burgess. “This would give them a hand on experience of hands on environmentalism and agriculture.”
Carlyn Marsh’s speech explained how RCDs can expand their ideas and support advancements in technology outside the farm.
“History is a powerful tool, and there is a way to evaluate it and change its course,” said Marsh. “Resource Conservation Districts embody this value as they have been looking for ways to improve and protect our watersheds, wildlife, natural resources, and agriculture ever since the Dust Bowl.”
Marsh went on to explain how the current agricultural impact doesn’t necessarily impact our communities today; but future generations will feel the pinch with increasing populations and resources.
“There is a way to uphold honor and continue the history of animal agriculture without the burden it places on our water, land, and air. ” said Marsh.
Marsh introduced to the crowd her idea of how “super meats” can be used to potentially solve conservation efforts by growing meat instead of animals.
“Now this isn’t a vile concoction of tofu and sadness, this is real meat without the real problems,” she said.
According to Marsh, a small sample is taken from the animals’ stem cells and grown to form minuscule tissues, and later form into actual meat.
“This is no new concept,” she said. “Scientist and doctors have been using this technology in regenerative medicine.”
Marsh argued her point that cultured meat uses less land and fewer resources than traditional methods and is cost effective. She said, “Although this doesn’t sound like something normally supported by RCDs, its production achieves many of the RCD’s goals, including bettering the state of the watersheds and decreasing deforestation.”
She ended her speech by reiterating that with the support of RCDs, on the topic of super meats, both environmentalists and agriculturalists can work together. ■