As I write, I am sitting at my desk attempting to control my panic. But when you read this, I am most likely hunkered down in a soils pit somewhere on the outskirts of Oklahoma City, faking my knowledge of soils and channeling Tom Bechman. Please pray both are working.
I am currently on my third trip to Oklahoma City for National Soil Judging. First in 1988 as a senior in high school and then again last year as a chaperone for my oldest child. I am kicking myself for not paying attention last year – I was just along for the ride, excited not to be in charge of any coaching or any knowledge that might be needed by the teams judging.
This year, however, I am chaperone and "coach," using the title "coach" loosely – other than not having his physical presence in Oklahoma, Tom is truly the one-and-only soils coach for this team.
Oklahoma has been home to the National Land and Range Judging Contest since 1952. The contest averages 700 participants each year and last year hosted students from 34 states. Contestants must first qualify in their home state to be eligible to compete in this national contest.
The contest itself consists of two separate events – range judging and land judging. There are two days of practice sites, April 29-30, that teams are able to visit, judge, and talk over soils with volunteers from Oklahoma State University and the Natural Resources Conservation Services. The contest is then the third day, this year on May 1. That's today!
Land judging examines soil characteristics to determine quality and capabilities. Reviewing erosion, slope, drainage and permeability allows students to learn about managing and conserving a critical natural resource. There is also a division for homesite judging within land judging. Our team will be competing only in homesite judging this year.
In addition, five other 4-H teams and five FFA teams from Indiana will compete in both land judging and homesite evaluation.
Range judging teaches students how to properly identify plants, their growth habits and their value for livestock. It can then be evaluated for management uses that maximize used and minimize negative impact.