New Rules NRCS provides FFA teachers with competition training
New Rules: NRCS provides FFA teachers with competition training
Story by Mark Moseley
The training of students in the Texas Future Farmers of America (FFA) program has just taken a new turnï¿½.toward the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). At their recent meeting in Lubbock, the FFA advisors made a decision to align their range contest more to the National Range Judging contest, which is held each spring in Oklahoma City.
This contest, which itself was revised a few years ago, is aligned to the NRCS rangeland planning process. The FFA advisors, with the goal of preparing their students for college and eventual careers, elected to implement the training immediately with some local and regional contests occurring in September and October. In order to train new advisors, NRCS and volunteers from Boerne hosted a training workshop on property owned by Kendall County.
Students must identify 30 plants, which are randomly selected from a state master list, during the contest. They must identify the plant and know its value to livestock, invasiveness, longevity, season of growth and other attributes.
In the next stage of the contest, a small plot or ï¿½pastureï¿½ is flagged for students to evaluate. This is where the NRCS rangeland planning process emerges.
During the site evaluation students are provided with a distance to water and an overall operation management goal. They must determine from a soil pit, which type of ecological site is present, take plant inventory and determine livestock value in the plants current condition.
The students then utilize a habitat rating guide that considers livestock needs such as vegetation quality and quantity, variety, distance to water, slope of the land, integrity of the site, utilization and density of brush. Each of these factors are scored from 0 ï¿½ 40, with 40 being the best. Once this is done, the student then identifies the most limiting factors. Referring back to the management goal provided earlier, the student recommends management practices until the scores for all factors meets or exceeds the goal.
The contest is designed to teach student how to recognize the importance of goals and how to mitigate limiting factors until the goal is reached. The contest does not get into the tools of management as they are so complex and specialized.
FFA educators are now hurriedly training students for the upcoming local and regional contests and in preparation for the state level contest held in the spring at Tarleton State University. Winners of the state contest earn a trip to the National Range Contest in Oklahoma City held during May.
The local and regional contests are often hosted by soil and water conservation districts across the state. Volunteer help for these contests is provided by district and NRCS employees.
Agriculture teachers from around the central Texas area participated in the newly adopted method of judging range in training provided by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Mark Moseley, NRCS Ecological Site Inventory Specialist, teaches range judging (second from the left), while Alice London, NRCS Earth Team Volunteer, (second from Right) assists with the Future Farmers of America range training.
Levi Tibbs, Boerne NRCS district conservationist (second from Left), provides assistance during a recent Future Farmers of American range training.