Sponsored By
indiana Prairie Farmer Logo

Indiana FFA members win big at FPS soils judgingIndiana FFA members win big at FPS soils judging

Indiana students get a look at Illinois soils during the Farm Progress Show soils judging contest.

Tom J. Bechman

September 14, 2023

2 Min Read
 Two young ladies in a pit of soil as they take measurements
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT: Contest organizers provided a practice pit at the Farm Progress Show so FFA judgers could get acclimated before judging the actual contest pits. Tom J. Bechman

The tradition of holding a soils judging contest at the Farm Progress Show continued in 2023. Some 50 FFA members from Indiana descended on the Decatur, Ill., show site to evaluate four contest pits plus a practice pit.

Jeff Smith, Decatur, retired advertising representative for Farm Progress, helped revive the contest at the 50th anniversary show near Henning, Ill., in 2003.

“They held soils judging contests at the first few shows when the Farm Progress Show began, and we wanted to bring it back to increase the educational value for FFA members who are interested in soils and attend the show,” Smith says. “We’ve held a contest every time the show has been held in Decatur, beginning in 2005.”

The 2023 edition featured the largest participation ever, with over 120 students competing from Indiana and Illinois combined. Sixteen schools fielded around 30 teams for the contest. Indiana FFA members competed against other Indiana FFA’ers, and Illinois students competed in the Illinois division.

Learning experience

Gary Steinhardt, Purdue Extension soils specialist and an Indiana Prairie Farmer-Purdue College of Agriculture Honorary Master Farmer, has headed up the team that selects and evaluates pits since 2003. This year, he was joined by Scott Wiesbrook, with the Illinois Natural History Survey; Randy Staley, an independent soil consultant, Clay City, Ind.; and Ron Wamsley, a former ag teacher and recently certified soil scientist, Rensselaer, Ind.

There are both timber and prairie soils located on the land included in the Farm Progress Show site at Decatur, Steinhardt explains. “This year, we really wanted to focus on more typical Illinois soils, and we were able to do so,” he says.

That doesn’t mean each pit had over a foot of black topsoil, Wiesbrook adds. He notes that one pit had 20 inches of black topsoil, but another pit in the same field only had 5 inches of black, prairie topsoil remaining. “You can get soil erosion in these locations, too,” he says. “That particular pit was moderately eroded.”

The winners

Farm Credit Mid-America Services and Farm Credit Services of Illinois sponsored the contest, providing cash awards to the winners in each state. Indiana farmers are served by Farm Credit Mid-America, with Illinois farmers served by Farm Credit Services of Illinois.

Here are the team winners for the Indiana side of the contest:

  1. Southmont FFA, Crawfordsville, Advisor Gary Mosbaugh

  2. Southmont FFA Team 2

  3. Rossville FFA, Rossville, Advisor Brittany Need and assisted by Phil Carter

The top three individuals in the Indiana soils judging division at FPS also received cash awards from Farm Credit Mid-America. Here are the winners:

  1. Clair Simpson, Southmont FFA

  2. Cole Rhoads, Southmont FFA

  3. Kelsey Thompson, Southmont FFA

Thanks to both Farm Credit associations for sponsoring awards. Congratulations to everyone who competed and made the 2023 Farm Progress Show soils judging contest the largest contest yet.

Read more about:


About the Author(s)

Tom J. Bechman

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer, Farm Progress

Tom J. Bechman is editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer. He joined Farm Progress in 1981 as a field editor, first writing stories to help farmers adjust to a difficult harvest after a tough weather year. His goal today is the same — writing stories that help farmers adjust to a changing environment in a profitable manner.

Bechman knows about Indiana agriculture because he grew up on a small dairy farm and worked with young farmers as a vocational agriculture teacher and FFA advisor before joining Farm Progress. He works closely with Purdue University specialists, Indiana Farm Bureau and commodity groups to cover cutting-edge issues affecting farmers. He specializes in writing crop stories with a focus on obtaining the highest and most economical yields possible.

Tom and his wife, Carla, have four children: Allison, Ashley, Daniel and Kayla, plus eight grandchildren. They raise produce for the food pantry and house 4-H animals for the grandkids on their small acreage near Franklin, Ind.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like