A fresh set of eyes can make all of the difference in finding solutions to persistent issues.

Luckily, Iowa has a growing group of young farmers and rural entrepreneurs with the vision and drive to take those challenges head-on.

Take for example, Dakota Hoben (pictured above), a young agriculture professional from Ames. Dakota won Iowa Farm Bureau’s Discussion Meet and this week advanced to the Sweet 16 of the American Farm Bureau competition, on the strength of a clear and consistent message: let’s push ourselves.

Let’s push ourselves, as farmers and ag professionals, to explore new and better solutions to address existing issues, like water quality and the public’s misunderstanding of beneficial agriculture technology, such as GMOs. Let’s push ourselves and be proactive in addressing potential issues before they become problems because, as Dakota says, “it’s not going to be our dad’s and grandad’s generations that are going to solve these issues, it’s going to be our generation.”

The Discussion Meet is a competition to prepare young farmers and ag professionals for real-world conversations about the tough issues facing farmers and their non-farm neighbors. Last year’s Iowa champion reached the Final 4 of the national competition, and with 400-plus young farmers registered to attend Iowa Farm Bureau’s annual Young Farmer Conference later this month, Iowa is sure to produce yet another standout problem solver.

Speaking of problem solvers, Iowa had two entrepreneurs reach the Final 4 of American Farm Bureau’s Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge this week. AccuGrain of Rose Hill, Iowa won the competition for its use of X-ray technology to inventory flowing grain in real time, which, among other things, creates a safer work environment for farmers by reducing the need to climb into a grain bin.

Iowa’s other Final 4 representative, AgriSync of Dallas Center, Iowa impressed the judges with an app that (what else?) helps farmers solve equipment problems by connecting them with technicians via their smart phones.

Did I mention that last year’s Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge champion also came from Iowa?

It’s easy to point to the growth of our cities and assume that our best and brightest problem solvers hail from Des Moines or Cedar Rapids.

Hopefully, we're reminded that there’s still greatness in the countryside, and we're willing to accept our rural neighbors’ genuine invitation to work together on the big issues facing Iowa.

They’ll be ready, with fresh eyes and a vision for the future.

By Zach Bader. Zach is Iowa Farm Bureau’s Online Community Manager.