Soils judging for youth was one of the educational activities held at the first Farm Progress Show in 1953. It was revived in celebration of the 50th anniversary show at Henning, Ill., in 2003.
With help from Farm Credit organizations in both Illinois and Indiana, the contest has been held every time the show returns to Decatur, Ill., which now hosts a permanent, biennial site for the event. This year marked the seventh soils judging contest held at Decatur.
The soils judging contest is a cooperative effort. Farm Credit in each respective state provides cash awards to both team and individual winners. Jeff Smith, a sales representative for Farm Progress, works with host farmers to secure a site and dig pits. Gary Steinhardt, a Purdue University Extension soils specialist, has served as official judge since the contest was revived. Dennis Bowman, an area Extension educator with the University of Illinois, assisted by his crew of Extension volunteers, conducts the contest.
What people don’t realize, Steinhardt says, is that the Decatur show grounds is an excellent site to hold a soils judging contest because it contains both prairie soils characteristic of Illinois and timber soils more like those found in Indiana.
This year’s contest featured a prairie soil, a timber soil that formed in wind-blown loess, a soil formed in glacial till and an outwash soil with sand laid in by water at about 36 inches.
“It’s an educational opportunity for students to see that kind of variation,” Steinhardt says.
Illinois and Indiana teams don’t compete against each other. Illinois students judge by Illinois rules and Indiana students judge according to Indiana rules, which were revised for 2017. This was the first contest conducted with the revised rules. Students from both states determined best practices for both ag and home-site use on various soils.
Placing first and second in the Indiana division was South Newton FFA, coached by Darrell Allen. Southwestern Shelby FFA, coached by Pam Meyer, placed third.
Individual winners were Austin Berenda, first; Gracie Kindig, second; and Hayden Berenda, third; all of South Newton.
Susan Ellis, marketing specialist for Farm Credit Services, presented the awards to the Indiana winners. Check out the winning teams’ photos below.