Indiana Students decide to hold their own Land & Range Judging Competition in Oklahoma
You’ve heard the line, what if you held a party and no one came? Well, what if you didn’t hold the National Land and Range Judging Competition and students still came – from Indiana?
Because of the COVID-19 Pandemic and for the safety of students and all involved, the National Land and Range Judging Contest was cancelled in 2020 and again this year.
The coaches, qualifying students, and some parents from Indiana, about 80 in all, knew that but decided to still go west to Oklahoma and hold their own competition.
Glen Jones is a retired educator from North Miami High School in Indiana. There were only three years from 1989 to 2019 that he did not make the trip to Oklahoma City. However, his first trip came as a 15-year-old sophomore in 1964. The North Miami team he competed on finished fourth.
“It was a life-changing experience for me, and I’ve seen it do the same for kids for decades,” he said. “In 1964 it opened a whole new world for me. I grew up on a small corn and soybean farm and had probably been out of the state of Indiana once in my life before I came to Oklahoma. The coaches of the Indiana teams realize how important this is and we didn’t want these students to miss that opportunity.”
When the National Competition is held in normal years, 4H and FFA students test their skills in judging the adaptability of the land for various purposes, including farming, range management and home development. The skills the teens apply at the contest involve principles they can use in career fields such as environmental and agricultural management, natural resource conservation, home building and construction.
The last time the event was held, 2019, nearly 700 4-H and FFA students and over 200 coaches from over 34 states competed in the 68th National Land and Range Judging Contest. After two days of practice at sites in the Oklahoma City area, the contest was held near El Reno, Oklahoma at the Cheyenne Arapaho Tribal Headquarters. The Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD) was the primary host along with about 30 additional sponsors.
That night (May 2, 2019) National championship trophies were awarded at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum to team and individual winners in each category of competition: land judging, range judging and homesite evaluation. Each category included FFA and 4-H awards.
So, with the 2021 national event being cancelled, Jones contacted Sam Nusz of Redlands Community College whom he had met previously and visited with through the years. He asked Nusz if they could use the pits from a previous event near El Reno, and the trip from Indiana was set in motion. Some students on Wednesday wore shirts that read, “National Land Judging, 2021, Indiana Invitational” as they competed in Land and Home Site Judging. Then later in the day, awards were presented at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.
Besides the competition, the caravan of buses stopped along the way at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and visited the Oklahoma National Stockyards, Express Ranches and the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum as well as other sites.
Hayley Backus competed for Tippecanoe Valley’s Green 4H team as a sophomore in 2019. She finished fourth in the nation in the Homesite – 4H competition and fourth in the Land Judging – 4H competition. She couldn’t compete again, however, her team has seniors come to help others.
“This overall trip is a just a really good way to challenge yourself to learn new things,” said Backus, who will attend Purdue University next year. “So, I’m really glad I got to come back again. I’m planning on becoming an ag teacher, so I hope there is a lot more of this in my future.”
Photo Caption: Glen Jones, holding clipboard, is a retired educator from North Miami High School in Indiana. There were only three years from 1989 to 2019 that he did not make the trip to Oklahoma City. However, his first trip came as a 15-year-old sophomore in 1964. The North Miami team he competed on finished fourth. About 80 students, coaches and parents made the trip from Indiana to compete in land judging on Wednesday near El Reno. Because of the COVID-19 Pandemic and for the safety of students and all involved, the National Land and Range Judging Contest was cancelled in 2020 and again this year. However, Indiana’s teams decided to go west to Oklahoma and hold their own competition.