National Land and Range Judging held
Nearly 1,000 FFA members, 4-H members and sponsors from 34 states attended 63rd annual National Land and Range Judging Contest, held April 29 to May 1, according to contest co-chair Kim Farber, president of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, the contest’s principal sponsor. Breshears Trucking Farm near the town of Mustang, Oklahoma, in Canadian County hosted the contest. Total registration for the event exceeded 900 with coaches, sponsors, officials and group leaders in addition to the contestants.
National championship trophies were awarded to team and individual winners in each category of competition including land judging, range judging, and homesite evaluation. Each category included FFA and 4-H awards.
In FFA Land Judging, the North Miami, Indiana,ana, chapter won in the team category. Connor O’Neill of the Lind-Ritzville, Washington, chapter won first place in the individual category. For 4-H, the Barbour County, West Virginia, club was the winning team and Kelton Miller, Barbour County, West Virginia, club, was the 4-H individual winner. Jim Wildermuth, North Miami, Indiana,ana, 4-H club coach, won the Adult competition.
In FFA Range Judging Contest, the Hondo, Texas,s, chapter won the team competition, and April Molitor, Hondo, Texas chapter won the individual award. The Oliver County, North Dakota, club won the 4-H team category, and Emily Klein, Oliver County, North Dakota, club, placed first in the 4-H individual category. Dave Ollila, South Dakota, won the Adult competition.
In FFA Homesite Evaluation Contest, the North Miami, Indiana, chapter won the team competition, and Nick Thompson, Sothern Wells, Indiana, chapter, won the individual award. The Barbour County, West Virginia, club won the 4-H team category, and Harley McVay, North Miami, Indiana, club, placed first in the 4-H individual category. Jim Wildermuth, North Miami, Indiana, 4-H club coach, won the Adult competition.
Farber noted the idea of a land judging contest was invented by three Oklahoma conservationists in 1943. They decided which soil qualities could be judged and developed score cards to test skills. The idea caught on and Oklahoma has been hosting the national contest since 1952, she said. Oklahoma City serves as headquarters for registration and other activities, with the actual contest held somewhere near the metro area.
The 4-H and FFA participating teams qualified for the national event by placing among the top five teams at contests held in their home states. Farber said the teams match skills in judging the adaptability of land for various purposes including farming, range management, and homesite construction.
The first two days of the three-day event offer contestants opportunities to visit nearby practice sites to get acquainted with Oklahoma soils and plants with information available from soil experts from USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and OSU. A dance in the evening of the second day gives the participants a chance to socialize with other teens from across the nation.
The actual contest site remains a secret until contest day, so no one has an unfair advantage. Contestants and coaches gather on contest morning to find out the official contest location. They then travel to the site, with a police escort, in a caravan of over 100 cars spanning several miles.
“The contestants take turns examining the soil in pits and trenches dug especially for the contest,” Farber said. She noted that the skills the teens test at the contest involve principles that can be valuable in career fields like environmental and agricultural management, natural resource conservation, home building and construction.
The event ended with an awards banquet in the Great Hall of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum when the day’s results were announced. Kim Farber emceed the awards program.
Farber presented the 2014 National Land and Range Judging Contest Honoree Award to Nick Owen. For more than 17 years Owen has played an important part in the site selection and layout of the contest. From arranging for the digging of pits, locating a site to feed 1,000 participants, or parking vehicles and returning the site to the way it was found, Nick can be counted on to get the job done.
“I would like to thank all the conservation districts, businesses and associations who sponsored this educational contest,” Farber said. “It takes a tremendous amount of time, effort and money to put on an annual event like this.”
“Special thanks go to the Breshears Trucking Farm for hosting the contest,” Farber said, “Thanks also to the Noble Foundation for sponsoring the printed program and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum for hosting the awards banquet, along with many other sponsors.”
Farber said the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts Auxiliary sponsored and hosted the Social Hour and Dance. Members of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts Employees assist with the very vital contest tabulating, which takes place in the few hours between the end of the contest and the beginning of the awards banquet.
Contest cosponsors also include Oklahoma Farm Credit, Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau, Sirloin Club of Oklahoma, El Dorado Agricultural Products, Oklahoma State University, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education, American Farmers & Ranchers, Oklahoma Farm Bureau, National Conservation Foundation, Biltmore Hotel Oklahoma, and numerous other businesses and organizations.