FFA members compete in Jonesboro - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

FFA members compete in Jonesboro

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – Over a thousand FFA members descended on Jonesboro for a variety of competitions ranging from seeds to weeds to fields and everything in between.

ASU Ag Professor Dr. Kevin Humphrey, says 69 of the 78 eastern schools that have Ag programs were expected to attend.  A lot of people think FFA is just about cows and plows and pigs. But there's a lot more to it than that.

Maggie Ennis from Highland was judging dairy products, sampling cheese, butter, milk. For some of the products she wrinkled up her nose as the taste didn't meet the appearance. She was philosophical about her contest participation. "Some tastes are better than others but you have to try everything to make an accurate judgement."

Dr. Kevin Humphrey said these young men and women are exposed to so many things because agriculture is not all about row crop farming or cows.

Humphrey, "Agriculture is diverse and the jobs and careers related to agriculture is pretty diverse." Steve Davis is the Ag teacher in Newport, he says contests like this are all about exposure. 

"In reality most of them will not go back to the farm. What we hope is that a lot of them will go into the Ag industry in some form in sales or services or the business aspect of it." Davis said.

There were, of course, your standard contests like judging swine, cattle and sheep. The Arkansas Forestry Commission employees were working with students in tree identification and pulp wood estimation and other tree-related contests.

One thing quite evident at this contest was that the faces of FFA has changed in the past 30-plus years. There was a time when this contest would have been all male.

Davis, "We have a lot more non-traditional students were about 35% female now and we delve more into the sciences of agriculture now. The newer technologies."

Poultry, both living and dead, were up for inspection at the Convocation Center. Master Gardeners were monitoring horticulture and competitors were dealing with unhappy plant buyers. On the convo floor, electrical competitors were wiring up test rigs according to diagrams. Like life, the competition is a combination of writing and doing.

Dr. Humphrey, "A number of the contests have written exams and then they have what they call a practicum skills." Those judging sheep were squeezing and patting wool while seed judging competitors counted and sorted different types of seeds into graded piles.

Many competitors begin working toward this contest as soon as school began. Miranda McGowan from Norfolk has been in training for a while for this contest. She was clipping plant leaves for asexual reproduction demonstrations. "Our teacher takes us through and we do practicum's on our own and we have books that we study."

Winning and going on to state is the ultimate goal; but, like with any large competition, the social aspects are big winners as well.

Maggie Ennis, "You get to meet a lot of new FFA members and you get involved with a lot of different schools a lot."

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