GRATIS — Preble County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) held the annual County Soil Judging Contest on Friday, Sept. 13. All five Preble County FFA chapters had the opportunity to test members’ knowledge of soil types for urban and agricultural uses.
There were 80 students who participated in Rural Soil Judging and 30 students who participated in Urban Soil Judging.
According to SWCD District Administrator and Technician BJ Price, students were responsible for evaluating the land for rural purposes or urban purposes.
In the rural contest, students evaluate the land based on its agricultural use — how intensively it can be farmed. They were looking at the slope of the land, root restrictive layers, drainage, and how productive it could be for farming.
In the urban contest, students were looking at building site development — how the site could be utilized for building a house, driveway, landscaping, or commercial uses. They were specifically looking at restrictive features of soil, wetness, and root restrictions.
According to Price, Preble County SWCD has been partnering with the Agriculture Teachers in the area to host this contest for decades. SWCD is responsible for lining up a site for the judging with all the appropriate features, including: different soil types, bus access, and parking.
This year, the contest was held on Gary Brubaker’s farm and the soil pits were dug by Bill Lewis.
For SWCD Outreach Coordinator Kate Sills, this was her first year being a part of the County Soil Judging Contest, but she enjoyed getting to see the students participate and “get into it.”
“When you walk around and take pictures, you notice, they are very intent on what they are doing, which is very cool. I don’t think I’ve seen many educational events where the kids are so in-tune with what they’re doing and understand it as well as they do. They’re especially willing to learn,” she said.
Price added, the students can learn various skills from participating in this Soil Judging Contest.
“It could be, they’re going to be a farmer one day and they will use this kind of knowledge every day in their work. Or, one day they will own a home and on a basic level they could take that into account with yard drainage, landscaping, or finding a site to build a house,” he said.
They also learn useful skills if they are interested in the following career fields: engineering, agriculture, landscaping, horticulture, excavating, and others.
Students from grade nine to 12 competed in the County Soil Judging Competition. While the seniors have had practice over the years, the freshmen are looking at these competitions with fresh eyes. All students applied their knowledge they learned through their FFA Chapter to the competition, learning valuable skills along the way.
“I wanted to be a part of soil judging because I have some background knowledge of soil from helping my dad on our family farm,” Abbey Rodefer, 12th grade student at National Trail, said. “This is my fourth year participating in the soil judging contest, and I think each contest is very unique because of the conditions. Each site is a little different from the last one you judge and I have participated in past contests that have been pouring down rain. Each contest gives you a different experience.
“I think I did pretty well during the contest and tried my best. Luckily the weather was nice, and the pits were in decent condition. It is always hard to judge time during the contest because I get so focused on getting everything done, but overall I think it went really well. One thing I struggle with is the best management practices because it comes from the packet and is a lot to remember.”
“This is my first time doing soil judging but I have learned a lot about it so far. I am doing rural soils which is seeing whether or not the target crop would do well in the soil they have chosen,” Hailey Henderson, 9th grade student at National Trail, said.
“I feel that I did okay for it being my first time and not exactly knowing what to expect, but I feel that my confidence will only grow as I do this more and more through the years. I do plan on participating on this in the future and I learned a lot from the competition, like what I need to focus on and study more to be ready for the next competition.”
Megan Roell, Preble Shawnee FFA President, added, “I wanted to be a part of the soil judging contest because it gives me the opportunity to advance my knowledge about the topic that I can take it back to my family farm to help with my family crops.
“I’ve been participating in this contest since my Freshman year so four years. What I like about the contest is that there’s so many things you can learn from the event and preparation that will stay with me personally for the rest of my life. What stands out to me at soil judging is it gives you a deeper idea about building a house and your crops that a lot of people have no idea about so the kids that do participate benefit from the contest later on in life when they own their own farm or go to build a house.”
“This was my third year competing. I continue to compete to get better at it each year. Something that stands out to me is the back of the card, or the best management practices (BMP). You can be really good at identifying soil properties, but being able to apply that information to what you can do to help is just as, if not more, important,” Mallory Deaton, Eaton FFA Secretary, said.
“From doing these contests, I’ve learned to look deeper than face value to examine properties that could limit suitability. Most people don’t know much about soils and the effect it can have on your house, but this contest teaches you that.”
Samantha Nuse, Tri-County North FFA member, said, “This is my second year participating in Rural Soil Judging. I like Judging soils, the only downfall is when it rains and it’s hard to get in and out of the pits. Last year my schools rural soil judging team made it to the state contest so we all are working hard to hopefully make it back there again.
“Going into Soil Judging I didn’t know much about it but I’ve learned a lot. We learned about soils in my class and with this CDE contest I got to apply the knowledge learned in the classroom to real life actions and experiences.”
“This is my first year participating. I wanted to be a part of the contest because I wanted to be more involved in CDE’s (Career Development Event) and soils seemed interesting to me,” Maddox Riegel, Twin Valley South Sophomore, said. “I don’t think I did the greatest, I definitely need to study more. I struggled with the back of the card as well as measuring the depth. I did do okay with slope.”
However, Riegel added, “I learned to be more patient with people.”
Some of these students will have the opportunity to compete at the District Competition. If they perform well enough there, they will have an opportunity to compete at the State Competition.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH