Townsend Communication in Agriculture Competition


Townsend Communication in Agriculture Competition

We are now accepting entries for the 2024 Townsend Communication in Agriculture Competition. Submission rules and other information appear below.

Professionals in science and agriculture must be able to write and present effectively about their disciplines with non-experts and members of the public. Why not sharpen your communication skills and perhaps win a handsome cash prize by participating in the Townsend Communication in Agriculture Competition?

A gift from the Wayne and Helen Townsend family allows the College of Agriculture to recognize up to six undergraduate students for the 2023-24 academic year. Up to four recipients may be recognized as Townsend Outstanding Communicators and receive a $1,000 award. Up to two top recipients may be recognized with Townsend Awards of Excellence and receive a $1,500 award. (Award amounts are minus any outstanding Purdue University tuition or fees.) All winners will be featured on our Townsend Communication in Agriculture webpage.

This competition is meant to be educational and fun. It's a way for you to enter your creative work in a competition that values and rewards professional communication about food, agriculture, and the environment.

To be eligible for the competition, you must have been a full-time undergraduate student in good standing in the College of Agriculture during the past academic year (either in residence or fully online). You also must be pre-registered as a full-time student in the College of Agriculture for fall 2024.

You may submit a writing or presentational speaking entry created in the past academic year (since June 1, 2023). Your entry may be a written piece, or a recorded multimedia presentation developed for a class or internship. You also may develop an entry specifically for this competition. Entries must conform to the instructions and rules listed below.

It's easy! Save this Entry Form (PDF) to your computer. Complete the form, and email it along with your writing entry or a link to your presentational speaking entry to You will receive confirmation when we receive your materials.

All entries must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. Friday April 26, 2024.

  • Submission entries must be original work developed by the contestant within the last academic year.
  • Writing and presentational speaking entries must be non-technical and readily understandable to general audiences.
  • One entry is allowed per contestant in either the writing or presentational speaking category.
  • All entries must have a title. Include the title where requested on the entry form.
  • Entries must be submitted by one student; we cannot accept team entries.
  • For work that has been published, students must submit a draft that reflects only their own writing and editing; professionally edited or produced entries are not allowed.
  • Late entries will not be accepted. Entries may not be revised after submission.
  • Writing submissions will be blind-reviewed by our judges. Presentational speaking entries will be evaluated by judges not directly involved with the student's work.
  • Entries must conform to the instructions and rules provided here.
  • To improve your writing and editing skills, consider completing some or all of our free online writing lessons. Our foundational writing lessons are quick and easy. Best of all, those who complete one or more modules with a score of at least 80 percent will gain bonus points on their entries. (You are free to retake assessments as many times as you like.) Access the Townsend Communication in Agriculture lessons, then click on the "Add to Cart" button. You will add these resources to your cart and check out. When prompted, enter your Purdue credentials.

  • We will accept writing submissions in three broad categories: informative writing, opinion writing, or creative essay.
  • Your writing entry must be submitted as a Word document.
  • Do not include your name anywhere in the document itself.
  • Your entry must be double-spaced, use 12-point Times New Roman or Arial font, and have 1-inch margins.
  • Your entry must include a cover page that lists only the title of your entry. Repeat the title at the top of the second page, centered above the beginning of your text.
  • Your entry must be between 500 and 1,200 words. Concise submissions are strongly encouraged.
  • When preparing your entry, consider how it addresses the seven criteria contained in the Writing Rubric (PDF) used by our judges. Competitive entries will score high on all or most of the criteria.
  • Include a "References" page at the end of your entry that is formatted according to APA style. This page does not count toward the word limit.

Advice from our judges in past years reveals that they like a creative and compelling introduction; however, it needs to get to the point quickly. As one judge said, "If I get beyond the first paragraph and don't know why I'm reading, that's a problem."

The best writing entries are those that crisply address an interesting or compelling topic related broadly to food, agriculture, or the environment. A strong entry will exhibit originality, unique expression, accuracy, and "brightness."

Judges also said they liked concise, focused entries that told a story rather than broad or general discussions. They recommended that writers visit the Purdue Writing Lab for a consultation before submitting their entries into the competition. The lab is free and can help improve your submission and your writing.

  • Your entry may be produced in an online or multimedia format of your choice. Your entry could be a video, a narrated photo slideshow, or a narrated PowerPoint or Prezi presentation. Other formats are acceptable as long as they are accessible to a general audience.
  • You must have played the primary role in the creative aspects of the production. You (the student) must perform all narration.
  • Judges will use the oral presentation rubric (PDF) when evaluating entries.
  • Your entry must include a "References" slide (see example slide, PDF) or segment at the end that includes references on which facts in the presentation are based. Format references according to APA style.
  • Presentations should not exceed 10 minutes. Shorter presentations are encouraged.
  • Photographs and other graphics help build audience interest in your presentation. When using such images, it's important to make sure they are yours, you have permission to use them, or they are in the public domain, which means they can be used freely by anyone. Find more information about finding and using photos for your presentation.

If you have questions about the Townsend competition, please contact Dr. Mark Tucker, / 765-494-8429

About The TownsendS

The competition is in honor of W. Wayne Townsend, who ran as the Democratic Party’s candidate for Indiana governor in 1984 and started his leadership career at Purdue.

Townsend earned a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Economics in 1951. He served many years in the Indiana General Assembly, winning his first Indiana House seat in 1958. In 1977, he was credited with casting the tie-breaking vote in the Indiana Senate for the state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, which did not win enough states to be added to the U.S. Constitution. Townsend also served on the Purdue Board of Trustees for 15 years. He died in 2015.

Mrs. Helen Townsend passed away August 14, 2023. Like her husband, Mrs. Townsend was a Purdue graduate (1951) who dedicated her life to public service in her hometown community and the entire state of Indiana. She was an avid supporter of Purdue Agriculture and Purdue University students.

Previous Winners

Sydney Altman

Category: Writing-Creative Essay

Entry Title: “The Livestock Industry, A Family Away from Home”

Sydney Altman is a senior from Chalmers, Indiana, who is majoring in Agricultural Communication. She plans to pursue a career in both youth outreach and the swine industry after earning her degree.


Kylie Bedel

Category: Presentational Speaking

Entry Title: “I Am the Farmer”

Kylie Bedel is a sophomore with majors in Agribusiness and Animal Sciences from Evansville, Indiana. She wants to leave her footprint in the industry to help with sustainability and production efficiency.

Allison Lund

Category: Writing-Informative Writing

Entry Title: “Make Fire Prevention a Priority on Your Farm”

Allison Lund is a junior Agricultural Communication major from Cambridge, Wisconsin. She hopes to pursue a career in agricultural journalism after graduation.

Shelby Whitaker

Category: Presentational Speaking

Entry Title: “Aquaponics: A Sustainable Future”

Shelby Whitaker is a junior from Valparaiso, Indiana, with majors in Agricultural Communication and in Sales and Marketing. She hopes to pursue a marketing career to advocate for farmers and educate others about agriculture.

Allison Lund

Category: Writing

Entry Title: “Data on the Farm: Glue or Gold?”

Allison Lund is a junior from Cambridge, Wisconsin, who is majoring in Agricultural Communication with a minor in Crop Science. She hopes to pursue a career in agricultural journalism after graduation.

Ella Robinson

Category: Writing

Entry Title: “The Dark Truth About Household Items on the Environment”

Ella Robinson is a senior studying Soil and Water Sciences. She grew up in Zionsville, Indiana. She describes her hometown as a suburban area sprinkled with a few farmers.

Robinson found her passion for agriculture while taking courses at Purdue. She would like to attend graduate school, and then pursue a career in outreach, extension, or education to bridge the communication gap between researchers and farmers.

Shelby Whitaker

Category: Presentational Speaking

Entry Title: “The Importance of Agricultural Education”

Shelby Whitaker is a sophomore originally from Valparaiso, Indiana. She has a double major in Agricultural Communication and Sales and Marketing, plus a minor in Art and Design Studio.

She is interested in marketing and, after graduating, hopes to work for a large agriculture company helping design and enhance their brand image.