Tuscola FFA excels at Land Judging Competition

Special to The Mountaineer
By Gail Heathman | Nov 14, 2012
Photo by: Donated photos GREAT AT LAND JUDGING — Pictured, from left, are Tuscola FFA team members, Jonathan Green, Shafin Ross, Jacob Hyatt, Carlyle Ferguson, Taylor Messer, Noah Ruff, Nathaniel Carver, Kyla-Jo Farmer and Morgan Messer. Not pictured is Justin Kihnel. Below, Jacob Hyatt, third place High Individual (Tuscola), at left, and Taylor Messer, first place High Individual, are pictured with their awards.

The sun was bright and the sky bright blue, but the wind never ceased the day FFA teams gathered at a farm in Iron Duff for the 2012 Area Land Judging competition. Tuscola team members ignored the cold as they demonstrated superior knowledge of soil, proving they knew their stuff when it came to determining soil texture, structure, consistence and tendency to erode — and that was just the top six inches.

Similar skill was required for the next layer below (the subsurface), not to mention expertise in drainage, water issues and recommendations for managing the soil and judging whether it would be suitable for urban uses such as landfills, basements, foundations or septic systems.

The teams rotated among four sites, each featuring a soil pit and different challenges in terms of slope, proximity to water and other special environmental concerns. Most people, casually admiring the beauty of the countryside on a sunny fall day, would be impressed by the in-depth knowledge possessed by FFA students about what lies beneath the surface of our land, and what it means for the humans who use it.

On this day, 13 FFA teams both local and from neighboring counties met at Tuscola, and then the caravan of buses was led to the farm owned by Johnny Bruce Ferguson. The location of the competition is always a closely guarded secret prior to the event.

Haywood Soil and Water Conservation District sponsors the competition each fall with help from soil scientists Kent Clary (Natural Resources Conservation Service) and William Miller (N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services). Tuscola’s Vo-Ag instructors John Best and Beth Ross are also closely involved in organizing the event.

Schools from six western counties participated, with six teams in the senior division and seven in the junior division. When the winners were announced, Tuscola ranked first in three of the four categories. Carlyle Ferguson, chairman of the district’s board of supervisors, was on hand to present the awards.

Tuscola won First Place Overall Team and First Place-Parkway Federation. Tuscola senior Taylor Messer was named High Individual for the second year in a ro. Jacob Hyatt, also a Tuscola student, won Third Place, High Individual.

In the Junior Division, Owen High School won First Place and Madison came in second. Other participating schools represented Rutherford, Polk and Swain counties.

Gail Heathman is the education coordinator of Haywood SWCD. Reach her at 452-2741, ext. 3.