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Future Farmers meet Future of Farming

By Ian Carver NRCS-WA Public Affairs Specialist
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Brandon Davis demonstrates how soil health is measured for FFA students

The Natural Resources Conservation Service in Washington (NRCS-WA) hosted more than 250 students during Plant Material Center (PMC) tours in Pullman, Wash. May 10, 2024. 

PULLMAN, Wash – The Natural Resources Conservation Service in Washington (NRCS-WA) hosted more than 250 students during Plant Material Center (PMC) tours in Pullman, Wash. May 10, 2024. 

The tours were coordinated and run in parallel with the 94th Washington Future Farmers of America Convention held at Washington State University and also included industry partners like the Washington State Conservation Commission and a couple conservation districts, the tours provided students with an opportunity to learn about the wide variety of programs, partnerships, and initiatives available to those in the agriculture science industry. 

Many of the FFA students felt the PMC tour was the highlight of the whole convention because it allowed them and their advisors to learn more about the facility, as well as meet the NRCS staff. The tour offered a hands-on approach to learning about the future of agriculture.

“When you hear them [industry vendors] talk about agriculture at a booth it can be hard to fully understand, so seeing things firsthand helps the learning process,” said Isabell Leslie, a freshman at Warden High School and FFA member.

Kristoffer Mills, Outreach Coordinator for NRCS-WA, was the point person for NRCS involvement in this year’s event. Mills was quick to mention that the PMC tours provided students an opportunity to gain a more in-depth understanding about the careers and internships available with NRCS. 

“I received great feedback from FFA advisors and students, with the highlight of the tours being the Soil Health Trailer,” Mills said. 

Students were quick to volunteer to participate in the various experiments and exhibits provided by the Soil Health Trailer [on loan from NRCS-OR] being led by Brandon Davis, a soil conservationist in NRCS-WA’s Davenport Service Center. 

Mills’ discussed how Davis’ enthusiasm towards all things soil health and conservation was very apparent. He said it would be easy to think that Davis had years of experience giving the Soil Health Trailer demonstration due to his knowledge and command of the subjects, yet this was his first-time volunteering to work with the trailer. Mills later pointed out how Davis was the most valuable player of the event and how impressed he was with his initiative to learn about the Soil Health Trailer and sought further training on how best to do the various demonstrations. 

“We are planning to host PMC tours with the Soil Health Trailer demonstrations at all future FFA conventions at WSU Pullman,” Mills said. “We are also working to get NRCS-WA their own Soil Health Trailer so that we can use it at other outreach events.”

This was the first time NRCS has hosted an event such as this at the PMC. The positive feedback and full tour schedules provided NRCS staff the green light to continue with events such as this moving forward. Providing the next generation with knowledge and a place to go for continuing their education in agriculture is a strong motivator for NRCS to continue its outreach efforts.

“The scientific part of agriculture is very interesting to me. I’m learning things at this tour and FFA event that have inspired me to learn things that I hope to apply to my family’s farm in Warden, Wash.,” said Soren Clausen, FFA member and eighth grade student at Warden High School.

Events and tours such as this provide an understanding of how Farm Production and Conservation agencies work together and the role of the Conservation Districts. By hosting this and future PMC tours, NRCS can demonstrate its commitment and support to Wash. FFA, students, and advisors. 

View more photos on the NRCS-WA Flickr site here.