Medora FFA participates in first soil judging contest, heading to national convention soon


MEDORA — Nine Medora High School students now know more about soil than they ever thought they would.

On Sept. 28 at the Southeast Purdue Agricultural Center in Butlerville, Medora FFA experienced a first: Competing in the area soil judging contest.

Since the school’s chapter was established at the beginning of 2018, members had attended district meetings, assisted at district contests, gone to camp at the Indiana FFA Leadership Center, celebrated National FFA Week, participated in leadership contests, been involved in the Jackson County Fair and attended the state and national FFA conventions.

Sharing their knowledge of soil, however, was new territory.

Taking that into consideration, Adviser Adam Conklin was impressed to see the teams place seventh, 10th and 12th out of 24 scoring teams from 12 different schools.

“They did an outstanding job for their first time out,” said Conklin, who started at Medora after spring break in the 2020-21 school year.

“They were getting nervous right before the contest started, but I told them to trust what they have learned and have fun with it,” he said. “I am extremely proud of how they did competing against schools that have been doing this for years. In addition to applying things they have learned in class, I think they impressed themselves and saw how the time and effort they put into it paid off.”

Conklin said the contest was a great opportunity to get the students active early in the school year.

“Most active FFA chapters participate in soil judging. Combine that with it being a strong suit of mine as an agriculture teacher, it was definitely something I wanted to push,” he said.

“Soils are the foundation of all things agriculture, so I think it is essential to start with that first,” he said. “We have covered that deeply in the classroom, and the contest provided a means for them to get out of school for a day, go to an actual farm and apply their lessons to the real world. I think they even had a good time.”

During the two weeks leading up to the contest, Conklin helped the students prepare in various ways.

Sophomore Wyatt Combs said they practiced a lot with soil cards, and classmate Brooklyn Wilkerson said Conklin drew pictures to help them learn. They were joined by Aaralyn Hackney on the team that placed seventh, which was one spot away from advancing to the state contest.

“Mr. Conklin did a really good job teaching us. That’s most of the reason we did so well,” Combs said.

“He definitely deserves all of the credit,” Wilkerson added.

Even with the practice, the students said when it came to the day of the event, it was a lot to take in since it was a new environment.

“It was nerve-racking. There were a bunch of people there,” Wilkerson said.

“I would describe it as nerve-racking, too,” said sophomore Jordan Starr, who was on the 10th-place team with Izzy Doyle and Isaiah Miller.

Each student on three-member teams from the schools was split into separate groups. Then their scores were combined to give them a team placing.

“They are judging us on how well we know the rules and how well we can identify the soil,” Combs said.

“Usually, the top soil is brown, and you decide if it’s weak soil development, it’s usually a different thing than what it usually is,” Wilkerson said.

“Gray in the soil at certain inches, weak drainage, you have to put that down,” Starr said.

“If it’s clay or sandy or just like a medium soil, you have to check the slope on the hill and what type of land form it is,” Combs said, noting that determines if it’s suitable for building a home or planting.

The students were happy to see Medora’s chapter exceed expectations. The third and final team, which placed 12th, consisted of Damien Jones, Haylee Sons and Brayden Hedrick.

“For our first time, we did a lot better than any of us expected,” Combs said.

Starr agreed.

“I think we did a lot better than everybody expected,” he said.

Next, Medora FFA members will attend the 94th National FFA Convention and Expo, which runs Oct. 27 to 30 in Indianapolis.

“Right now, they are still becoming familiar with what FFA is and the vast opportunities there are with it,” Conklin said. “At convention, they will get a much better vision of the big picture that they are a part of. They can meet students from all over the country, talk to college representatives, see new agriculture technology and so much more.”

After that, Conklin said the chapter may sell Florida fresh fruit later this fall since that’s a common FFA fundraiser.

The spring semester will focus on the various leadership development contests at the district convention and preparing for the spring plant sale. Last spring, Conklin said the tremendous success with the plant sale helped them invest more in the school’s Grow Lab.

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