The National Future Farmers of America (FFA) convention was held in Indianapolis, Indiana on October 30 to November 1, 2019. As part of this event Indiana’s USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff members and members of the Indiana Conservation Partnership (ICP) participated in the Environmental and Natural Resources Career Development Event (CDE) which included a teamwork presentation judging contest on Wednesday October 30th followed by a field practicum on Thursday October 31st.
The National FFA Environmental and Natural Resources CDE is a competitive event that allows students to apply classroom knowledge to real-life situations. This event focuses on testing students' problem solving and decision-making skills in environmental and natural resources. Each team competed at local and state levels for the privilege of representing their home state at the National FFA Convention & Expo. The event, held at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis and Dull's Tree Farm in Thorntown, Indiana, is one of many educational activities at the national convention in which FFA members practice the lessons learned in agricultural education classes. And while the weather was less than ideal with snow, wind and rain for the field practicum event, it didn’t keep the students from competing. Approximately 155 students representing 44 teams from across the country participated in the CDE event.
Teamwork Presentation: The teamwork presentation event was held on Wednesday at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. The purpose of this event is to foster student interest and promote environmental and natural resource instruction in the agricultural education curriculum.
During this event, students were provided a scenario that addressed an environmental/natural resource problem from soils, water, ecosystems and waste management; this year’s topic was regarding alternative energy supplies. During the teamwork portion of this event, FFA Teams were evaluated on how well they worked together to develop their statement and presentation regarding the topic. Groups were judged on the following areas: managing team dynamics; awareness of personality styles of others; using positive and mature language and mannerisms; reacting to changes; and handling tasks. After their preparation, teams were required to deliver an oral presentation justifying the decisions made by the team. Each team had eight minutes to make their presentation with an additional five minutes for questions from the judges. Approximately 55 members from Indiana NRCS and ICP volunteered during this event.
Field Practicum: The field practicum was held on a very cold and snowy Thursday afternoon at Dull’s Tree Farm. This field event centered around four diverse conservation topics and included both a written test and an Identification test.
The Identification Practicum was presented by Brianne Lowe, Indiana NRCS State Biologist. Here students had to identify objects ranging from pelts and feathers to tools used in the field.
The Water Quality Practicum was conducted by Rob Miller, Indiana NRCS Civil Engineering Technician. Rob had students look at the watershed, various types of pollution and their sources, and various water analyses to determine issues with water quality in the nearby pond. Special thanks to Rob for providing a fire to help the students get warmed up.
The Waste Practicum was conducted by Michael Wigginton, Indiana NRCS Northwest Area Resource Soil Scientist. Participants looked at both solid and animal waste as well as recycling and how soils can be affected and used in waste disposal.
The Soils Pit was presented by Rick Neilson, Indiana NRCS State Soil Scientist. Students needed to identify textures of the surface and subsoil, slope, depth class and erosion class. They estimated other properties like Permeability, Runoff and Land Capability Class, then used all this information to select conservation practices and land treatments.
Indiana NRCS assistance was also provided by over a dozen district conservationists, soil conservationists, area resource soil scientists, engineers, Earth Team volunteers and Pathway students working with groups of students as they moved from site to site. This gave the participants an opportunity to get to know NRCS staff and some of the activities that we do.
Winners of the National FFA Environmental and Natural Resources CDE were announced at the annual banquet with Jerry Raynor, Indiana NRCS State Conservationist, presenting the awards to the winners. The top ten individuals and the national winning team members received cash prizes to recognize their success in the event. Competition was fierce but Strawberry Crest FFA from Florida bested the other 43 team and took first place. Rounding out the top three were High Rock FFA from North Carolina and Brantley County FFA out of Georgia. The top three placing individuals included James Prescott of Strawberry Crest FFA taking first place, Tessa Dixon of Brantley County FFA coming in second and Nolan Carson of Sutherlin FFA from Oregon taking third place.