Two out of three finalists for this year’s Texas Farm Bureau Excellence in Agriculture competition, which honors the success of young ag industry members, live in El Campo and play active roles in the area’s diverse ag scene.

“I think it’s an exciting time for the area, because there is so much positive momentum going on,” Finalist Zach Eder of El Campo said. “It’s just a really fun opportunity to broaden the horizon and to showcase what this region can bring to the table.”

The Eders, Jessica and Ben Rumbaugh of El Campo and Kristin Anderson, of Buda, were selected from state-wide entries based on involvement in agriculture, leadership skills and participation in TFB and community organizations.

Applicants submitted discussions on issues surrounding the modern agriculture industry to TFB.

“I am really passionate about advocating for legislation that positively affects the agricultural industry,” Jessica Rumbaugh said. “The more I meet with my elected officials and their staff, the more I realize what a disconnect there is and how much the ag industry is misunderstood.”

Sarah Eder teaches biotechnology and physics at El Campo High School, while Zach is a technology development director for Advanta, a seed development and production company.

While Sarah’s family was not involved in ag, Zach’s father worked as an agronomist more than 30 years, and his family owns a small farm in the area.

The couple moved to El Campo in 2013 after Zach earned his PhD at Texas A&M University.

“We just jumped right in,” Zach said. “We fell in love with the area, and to be able to tell that whole story and look back at how far we’ve come...that’s been the funnest part about the presentation.”

Jessica and Ben Rumbaugh operate Texas Land and Home Real Estate, where Jessica is a certified broker, and the couple runs a grass-fed beef business called 410 Farms on the outskirts of El Campo.

“I love raising beef cattle,” Ben Rumbaugh said. “I love everything about them. Every day is different and there is a lot of science that goes into raising a high quality product,”

A member of a multi-generation ag family, Jessica’s passion for agriculture led her to create an Online ag-themed news aggregate, TheFarmandRanchNetwork.com.

Jessica also posts original content on the site, typically blog posts exploring topics such as first generation farmers emerging in the agriculture world.

“I want people to be able to not only buy and sell livestock, equipment etc., but most importantly network, get their questions answered, and help each other out with helping to spread important agriculture-related issues to all parts of the country,” Jessica said.

“I hope to see this site slowly gain traction and hopefully someday serve as a really great resource to the ag industry as a whole.”

To be considered, candidates, who must be TFB members, submitted an application including background information, essay questions covering agriculture topics and photos.

“We kind of want to use this as a launching point to get us more involved in the local farm bureau and on a higher level,” Sarah Eder said. “We’re really honored to have been selected.”

Finalists will give a 25-minute presentation to three judges, followed by a question and answer period.

“Even though I stand up and present in front of people every day, it’s totally different in this setting,” Sarah said. “I think it’s going to be good. We do really well with deadlines. We thrive with a little bit of pressure.”

First runner-up receives $500, and all finalists receive a paid trip to the annual TFB meeting on Dec. 7 - 9 in San Antonio.

Finalists will present for a second time before the state winner is announced.

The finalist whose presentation receives the highest score wins $5,000 cash, a UTV (utility terrain vehicle) and will represent TFB for the national Excellence in Agriculture Award during the 2020 American Farm Bureau Federation Convention in Austin.

“Winning would be very special because it shows that we really are making a difference and our hard work is paying off,” Ben Rumbaugh said.

“The new side by side would definitely help us out around the ranch.”

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