Unexpected lesson through land judging

Through the FFA, I have had some pretty diverse opportunities. From competing in Gainesville to traveling to Washington D.C. this upcoming summer, I have had a wide range of experiences. This past week, I had the chance to participate in a contest I never would have imagined competing in - land judging.

I have competed in food science, horse judging, public speaking, as well as other contests. However, land judging was a completely new experience to me. As a matter of fact, it was a new experience to everyone on my team. The state FFA land judging contest is in Highlands County this year; since it is so close to home, we decided to try our hand at the contest.

At our first practice, we realized that there was enough interest to have two teams instead of just one! The eight of us, four per team, spent several hours a week going over the basics of land judging. We learned about erosion, drainage, and soil types as well as many other subjects. We learned how to rate these different factors, and determine how they affected the land.

At first, this contest was not extremely interesting to me. However, once I realized how realistic it was, I was able to get into it a bit more. It was explained to our teams that this contest was designed to teach real life skills on evaluating land for a home to be built. I ended up learning valuable information on how to tell if soil is fit for foundation, landscaping, and septic systems.

After learning as much as we could, our teams headed to Okeechobee for our first contest last week. We started the morning bright and early, meeting for breakfast. From there, we loaded up on a bus with the team from Avon Park High School and went on our way.

When we got there, we went inside the agriculture building at Okeechobee High School. As a pleasant surprise, we got the chance to see some FFA friends from Okeechobee! After visiting for a while, everyone who was competing loaded back into our vehicles and drove to the competition site.

Once we arrived at the ranch where the contest was going to be held, we numbered off into groups. Each group went to a different hole to start evaluating the land. When we got to each hole, we were given twenty minutes to evaluate. We could look at the area surrounding the hole, look at the hole, and even climb inside it. After 20 minutes, each group rotated to another hole. After judging four different holes, we turned in our scorecards and waited for the results to be announced.

We all went back to the main area, ate an awesome home-cooked lunch, and went back to go over the correct answers to each hole. After the review session, the results were announced. We learned that our two teams took second and third place, good enough scores to get us to state! We are extremely excited that all of our hard work paid off.

Land judging has certainly been a learning experience so far. While it is by no means my favorite contest, I am glad to have had the opportunity to try it! With state contest coming up in less than a month, we now have even more studying to do. I am extremely proud of my two teams for being willing to try something completely new and doing so well at it!