Natural Resources Conservation Service Soil Scientist, Fred Schoenagel, was awarded the Honorary American FFA Degree, by the National FFA Organization, a school-based national youth leadership development group.
By Lauren Finnegan, Public Affairs Specialist
SOMERSET, N.J., Oct. 27, 2020 – Natural Resources Conservation Service Soil Scientist, Fred Schoenagel, was awarded the Honorary American FFA Degree, by the National FFA Organization, a school-based national youth leadership development group. The award is given to those who advance agricultural education and FFA through outstanding personal commitment.
New Jersey State FFA Specialist Kristianne Goodenough, said that Schoenagel’s endless commitment to the state-chapter is what stood out in the minds of the New Jersey FFA Executive Board.
“Mr. Schoenagel’s continuous support of the New Jersey FFA has allowed members to succeed at state level competitions but also allows them a way to connect their interests with future career success,” she continued. “It is because of these opportunities that he provides members that he was selected as an Honorary American Degree Recipient.”
Schoenagel was introduced to the organization in 2006 and has been an active participant in their biannual meets ever since. In addition to assisting in the Environmental and Natural Resources Career Development Event (CDE) each spring, Schoenagel coordinates the Land Judging CDE that takes place in the fall.
The fall event tests New Jersey high school students on their knowledge about soils, including why soils respond differently to management practices and how soil properties affect crop growth. When designing each leg of the competition, Schoenagel said the student’s passion for the field is notable.
“Anything I can do to promote soil science and education – that’s really important to me. The FFA officers, who are high school students — just to see them putting in all this effort to be a part of this organization is really impressive. They look at this and see the importance of [agricultural education] and might even think about doing it for a career — and I’m all about that.”
His duties for the Land Judging CDE include setting up four field sites with a dug soil pit, soil samples of surface and subsurface horizons, slope stakes, and finally a test based on the information provided.
The students must determine multiple variables from the sites in order to properly fill out a land card with the proper land capability class, and a homesite evaluation where they determine the site’s suitability for use as a location for a house.
“The most amazing thing about this event is that the students have to know how soil and site characteristics affect every one of their land interpretations on these cards, as specified in the land judging manual,” Schoenagel said. “But they are not allowed to use the actual manual during the event, so they have to memorize everything.”
The students are equally amazed by Schoenagel's dedication to the events, and they nominated him for the Honorary Garden State Degree in 2011.
And while all the accolades are much appreciated, they’re not what keeps him going back each year.
“[FFA] has become important to me. I’ve become personally attached to it and the students,” Schoenagel said. “Just the thought of them putting in all that effort, it’s just always really impressed me. It’s just so different from everything I have to do [for work], and when the event is over, I just always feel really good.”