Kacey Orr arrived in Texas armed with knowledge, facts and hard data about farming and related policies - but it turned out she didn't really need to know that much.
"It was like a pageant for farming, not pretty people," Orr said of her experience representing West Virginia during the American Farm Bureau Federation's Young Farmer and Rancher Discussion Meet held this month in San Antonio, Texas.
Orr, who grows 36 varieties of vegetables and fruits and raises chickens on her 30-acre Bullard Orr Farm in Triadelphia, made it to the competition's Sweet 16 while vying against 43 other farmers representing various states.
West Virginia chicken farmer Lois Alt, left, who has been fighting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in a court case related to water runoff at her farm, poses with Ohio County farmers Rebecca Jack, center, and Kacey Orr during the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Young Farmer and Rancher Discussion Meet in San Antonio, Texas.
"I missed by one single person going to the finals," Orr said. "The guy that beat me had won 10 years in a row at the state level. In the third round I was feeling good. It was less about facts and data, which is what I like, and more of a speech contest than I expected it to be."
But Orr, 33, is no stranger to speech competitions. During high school she was a member of Wheeling Park's speech team, which has won 34 consecutive competitions.
It was during the team's 20th consecutive win that she served as a team captain. That competition, she noted, was more stressful than the event in Texas.
"I could have never done it without being on the speech team. Every job I've gotten and elected committee I've served on is because of the speech team," she said, adding she contacted her former speech coach, Fran Schoolcraft of St. Clairsville, to tell her the good news.
Schoolcraft, who retired in 2004 as the head of the speech and theater department at Wheeling Park, said Orr was always a hard worker who used constructive criticism to better her skills.
"Kacey was a great girl. She would take it in stride and was always wanting to learn more and improve herself," Schoolcraft said. "Kacey would work hard and get better. She was a good inspiration for the other students because she worked so hard."
Schoolcraft noted she was not surprised when Orr went into farming since she had been around it her entire life. Orr's farm was started by her late grandparents, Dorothy and Robert Orr.
"I knew she enjoyed that type of thing. She was a hands-on type of girl. She did the lighting for our shows. I knew she was a down-to-earth girl," Schoolcraft said.
Schoolcraft was the speech team coach from its inception until it won its 25th consecutive competition. She said she always asked her students to do their best, as she did not want to put any undue pressure on them.