Tyler FFA finishes first
Tyler County Future Farmers of America members recently traveled to Oklahoma City with advisor/educator Leon Ammons and brought home the national championship title in two categories – Land Judging and Homesite Evaluation. This is a rare honor for the school, the community, the state and the nation – only four times in the 60 year history of the competition has a team won double titles.
Ninety-three teams from around the United States competed for the number one spot in the country, hosted by the Oklahoma Conservation District May 3-5. A total of 347 FFA students participated in the event, which were held near El Reno, OK (land judging site) on property owned by Redlands Community College, who hosted the judging. Total registration for the event exceeded 1,000, with coaches, sponsors, officials and group leaders in addition to the contestants.
The Tyler FFA team, consisting of George Hilvers, Emily Wells, Ashley Cochran, and Ashley Watson, outscored all others to win the top prize. The criteria for Land Judging is: surface texture, subsurface texture, depth of soil, erosion of soil, slope of land, permeability, and surface run-off, for the purposes of agricultural use. The criteria for Homesite Evaluation is the same, for the purposes of building construction.
The actual contest site remains secret until contest day, so no one can gain unfair advantage. On the morning of the judging, coaches and contestants are told of the official location and then travel to the site, with a police escort, in a caravan of over 100 or more vehicles. Contestants take turns examining the soil and trenches dug especially for the contest. Lt. Govenor Todd Lamb welcomed participants and Kendell Brashears, executive director of the Oklahoma FFA Foundation, emceed the awards program.
“We practiced fourteen hours every day,” said FFA team member Ashley Cochran. “It was worth it!”
The team competed at the regional and state level before continuing on to the national competition. While preparing for the event, they evaluated land in several areas of Tyler County for practice purposes.
“We evaluated 133 slopes,” said team member Emily Wells. “Evaluating slopes is the hardest part of the competition.”
To their credit, that hard work and dedication paid off handsomely. Besides winning the double first place titles, Emily Wells won 9th place individual (nationally) in both judgings, while George Hilvers placed 10th in the nation in Homesite Evaluations.
Hilvers is a TCHS graduate who currently attends West Virginia University. He qualified as part of the team prior to graduation, which allowed him to participate in the events. Also traveling with the group as coach was Scott Ash, who helped with training. Scott is a TCHS graduate and WVU student majoring in Agricultural Education.
“The best part of the whole experience was seeing Mr. Ammons face when we won,” both girls said, smiling. “We had no idea we were going to win. Then they started calling names. It was a complete shock!”
“We were on cloud nine,” said Emily Wells.
Driving cross country on the 1,100 mile journey to Oklahoma, the group stopped at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, MO, and visited the country’s largest Bass Pro Shop. While in Oklahoma, the students noted the differences in topography and commented, “There were no hills!”
“Tornado alarms!” said Ashley Cochran. “That was different, too. They said not to worry until the wind stopped blowing. Then it did stop, and the alarms went off.”
The FFA team members expressed their appreciation to former West Virginia winners. “The state has a long history of competing in the judging,” stated Leon Ammons. “Their strong representation helped pave the way for our team to succeed.”
The FFA team also conveyed their appreciation to Tyler County Board of Education and its members. “We are very thankful to our board members,” they said. The board provided the means for the team to travel to Oklahoma.
“We made memories that we will never forget,” said Ashley and Emily.