Photo courtesy Leah Smith
The Hermiston High School FFA soil evaluation team is headed to state competition after taking first place in the Blue Mountain District contest Monday at Threemile Canyon Farms.
Leah Smith, Hermiston FFA advisor, said 137 kids from local FFA chapters participated in the advanced and beginner soil evaluation career development events, including Hermiston, Pendleton, Echo, Stanfield, Heppner, Irrigon, Riverside, Weston-McEwen and McLoughlin high schools.
Only the top five members of the top two advanced teams can qualify for state, Smith said. For Hermiston, that includes seniors Dylan Westfall, Deven Hofbauer and Amanda Barron, junior Joseph Knight and sophomore Jayda Hoston.
The state competition will be held Monday in Elkton, located in Douglas County. Smith said the students will be leaving Sunday to make the five and a half hour trip.
Heppner High School placed second in advanced district soil evaluation, though advisor Beth Dickenson said the team will be unable to attend the state event. Instead, she said Heppner FFA will travel the following week to the National FFA Convention and Expo, Oct. 25-28 in Indianapolis.
Echo FFA also took first place in the beginner soil evaluation contest.
Learning about different types of soil is important for students to understand why and how certain crops grow in certain areas, Smith said.
“A lot of them don’t know why watermelons grow so well in Hermiston. It’s because of the soil type,” she explained.
Though only a few kids will go to state, Smith said the district competition provides an important learning experience for everyone who participates. Students head to each of four pits, including one practice pit, where they examine different layers of soil for characteristics such as texture, structure, color and water holding capacity.
“The students saw a lot of soil variation from pit to pit,” Smith said.
Threemile Canyon Farms not only provided the venue and dug the pits, but Smith said employees also took students on a tour of the massive farm after the event, including the dairy operation and potato sheds. Threemile Canyon is one of the largest dairy farms in the country, with 26,000 milking cows producing 1.4 million pounds of milk per day.
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