Turner Farms hosted 62nd National Land and Range Judging Contest

image of contestants, previous year
Previous year contest photo

OKLAHOMA CITY — More than 700 FFA and 4-H members from 34 states competed in the 62nd  annual National Land and Range Judging Contest, held April 30 – May 2, 2013, according to contest co-chair Kim Farber of Drummond, Okla. Farber is president of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, the contest’s principal sponsor. Turner Farms near the town of Amber in Grady County hosted the contest. Total registration for the event exceeded 1,000 with coaches, sponsors, officials and group leaders in addition to the contestants.

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. 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. He 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.

Contestants endured recorded-breaking weather during the contest, as Oklahoma experienced the coldest May 2 in state history. Temperatures hovering in the low 40s with winds gusting up to 30 mph with period rain made for less than ideal contest conditions. The weather played havoc with tabulating the contest results as well, as the scoring cards damaged by moisture and often nearly disintegrating became unsuitable for automated tabulation. That caused a delay in announcing winning scores in some categories of the contest.

The event ended Thursday night with an awards banquet in the Great Hall of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum when the day’s freshly-tabulated results were announced. Kendell Brashears, executive director of the Oklahoma FFA Foundation, emceed the awards program.
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.

In Land Judging, FFA competition, Tyler, W.Va., chapter won in the team category.  Alex VanCamp, Tyler, W.Va., won first place in the individual category. In the 4-H competition the Benton Central, Ind., chapter was the winning team and Lance Wilson, Monroe County, W.Va., was the 4-H individual winner. David Balderson, Mechanicsville, Va., won the Adult competition.

In the Range Judging Contest, the Hamilton, Texas, chapter won the FFA team competition, and Shawn Walton, Hamilton, Texas, won the FFA individual award. The Aurora, Mo., chapter won the 4-H team category, and Austin Thayer, Jackson County, S.D, placed first in the 4-H individual category. Justin Cox, Haskell, Texas, won the Adult competition.

In the Homesite Evaluation, FFA competition, the Tyler, W.Va., chapter won the team category and J.D. Morris, Pine Grove, W.Va., won the individual first place. In the 4-H competition, Benton Central, Ind., won in the team category and Lance Wilson, Monroe County, W.Va., won the individual first place award. David Balderson, Mechanicsville, Va., won the Adult Homesite Evaluation first place award.

Due to factors related to the weather, Homesite Evaluation results were announced a few days later than Land and Range contest results.

Farber presented the 2013 National Land and Range Judging Contest Honoree Award to Kent Boggs. Boggs is executive secretary for the Oklahoma FFA Association. For more than 30 years he has played a key role in distribution and tabulation of scoring cards for the contest, according to Farber. “We appreciate Kent’s contribution to the National Land and Range Judging Contest,” Farber said.

“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 Turner Farms 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. A number of conservation district employee  volunteers served as group leaders, guiding participants in the field to contest sites.

In addition to OACD, 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.