Northwest Colorado agriculture students compete in FFA range judging workshop

High school agriculture students from across Northwest Colorado competed in the FFA Range Judging and Plant Identification workshop Sept. 20 at the Community Center in Hamilton.

The educational event was hosted by Reece Melton, agriculture teacher at Soroco High School in Oak Creek, and Eric Wellman, agriculture teacher at Hayden. The Routt County and Colorado First Conservation Districts, courtesy of Kacey Green and Lyn Halliday, provided the funding to support the workshop. Ben Berlinger, Youth Activities Committee chair, provided individual awards for the high-scoring individuals as part of their program.   

The rangeland educational youth event involved 40 agriculture students representing four FFA chapters in Northwest Colorado. The participating FFA teams were Soroco, Hayden, Moffat County and West Grand. The Soroco FFA Chapter was honored with a first-place gold team award. These FFA chapters were invited to participate in the FFA state range judging competition at Lamar Community College on Oct. 11.

During the competition, students were required to identify 20 range plant species and one ecological site. During the plant identification portion, students had one minute to identify the plant before moving on to the next.

At the ecological site, students had to complete a rangeland inventory to determine the vegetation composition and rangeland condition of the area and analyze the condition of the soil surface for protection from erosion. Judging the ecological site also tested the students’ plant identification skills.

Guest speaker Justin Ewing of the USDA Animal Control Services gave a presentation about the concerns and issues surrounding wolf reintroduction in Colorado. The students gained knowledge about how proper rangeland management and livestock handling techniques can be used to reduce livestock losses caused by predators.

The Range Judging Contest is one of many FFA Career Development Events agriculture students can participate in to test their skills and knowledge learned through their agricultural education classes. Through the range judging contest, students are tested on their plant identification skills and reading the landscape to determine the ecological site, condition of the rangeland, amount of usable forage and the number of animals that can be properly supported on the land.

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