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Blue River Valley FFA wins national soils contest

The FFA chapter from Henry County, Ind., captures a national title.

Tom J. Bechman, Midwest Crops Editor

May 7, 2024

1 Min Read
Pictured from left: are Ron Wamsley, Samuel Morton, Tim Knopp, Isaac Morton, Eli Sayre and Jerry ‘Pork Chop’ Chernowsky
PROUD MOMENT: Here is the Blue River Valley FFA soils judging national championship team, pictured moments after being named national winners in land judging. Pictured are (from left) Ron Wamsley, soil scientist assisting the team; team members Samuel Morton, Tim Knopp, Isaac Morton and Eli Sayre; and Jerry “Pork Chop” Chernowsky, their coach. Tom J. Bechman

The countdown started with 10 of 99 teams lined up alongside the stage at the 2024 National Land and Range Judging Contest awards program, held in El Reno, Okla. Blue River Valley FFA, Henry County, Ind., was one of those 10 teams. As team names were called for 10th place, then ninth, then eighth, coach Jerry Chernowsky, still in the audience, began dancing. The more teams announced, the harder he danced. Finally, just two teams remained. “And your 2024 national FFA champion is … from Indiana, Blue River Valley FFA!”

The win was a dream come true for Chernowsky and his wife, Zoe Ann, Blue River Valley FFA advisor and vo-ag instructor. Chernowsky competed at the national contest in high school for Rensselaer FFA. In fact, he asked his high school coach, Ron Wamsley, to join them on the trip and help advise students. Now a practicing soil scientist, Wamsley is also coordinator of the Indiana soils judging competitions.

Eli Sayre led the Blue River Valley team with a second-place finish in the FFA individual competition. Students in the national land judging contest determine slope without a slope finder, texture of soils strictly by feel, and depth of the pit and inches of remaining topsoil without a ruler. They then recommend best management practices for the site to minimize soil erosion and maximize production.

The top five teams in the Indiana FFA state soils contest, held each October, and the top five 4-H teams compete in the national contest. Blue River Valley FFA placed fourth in the state in October. No other Indiana FFA teams placed in the top 10 and no Indiana 4-H teams placed in the top five in land judging in Oklahoma in 2024.

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About the Author(s)

Tom J. Bechman

Midwest Crops Editor, Farm Progress

Tom J. Bechman became the Midwest Crops editor at Farm Progress in 2024 after serving as editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer for 23 years. 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.

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