By Kelsey Keener
Iron County Today
CEDAR CITY–FFA members from around the state traveled to the SUU Valley Farm and the Diamond Z Arena last week for the annual FFA Judging Contest.
Students from 26 high schools competed in livestock, range, agronomy and horse judging contests. SUU professors Chad Gasser, Randall Violett, Dean Winward and Lee Wood led the contests and were assisted by several SUU students.
FFA members and advisors arrived at the Diamond Z Arena Tuesday morning for check-in and donuts provided by IFA. Robert Eves, Dean of the SUU Walter Maxwell Gibson School of Science and Engineering, welcomed all 604 contestants to the event before they headed to their respective judging contests.
Kortney Backus, the Utah FFA President, said the competition is beneficial is many ways, particularly in showing students what agricultural possibilities there are.
“We love that these colleges put this on for the kids,” Backus said. “They make sure that they’re getting these kids involved and letting them see what options are out there for them. As the Utah FFA Association we kind of want these kids to get involved and enjoy it here at SUU so that hopefully they’ll come back and get into the agriculture program down here.”
Backus also said the financial benefit of holding the competition in Cedar City is significant. Parents, families and teachers accompany the FFA members that come to compete, and spend substantial amounts of money on food and hotel rooms.
Backus also said that FFA events like this judging contest help provide valuable skills.
“We love that we’re raising these kids to be independent and to find a passion in leadership that is agriculture-based and that’s what we’re all about,” she said. “These kids are really some of the best kids you’ll find in the state. They’re hard working, kind and respectful.”
SUU Associate Professor of Agriculture Dean Winward said this judging contest helps prepare the students for the upcoming State Convention.
“This helps get the kids interested, by being thrown into a competitive situation where they can see what they need to work on and what they’re good at,” he said. “And it kind of gets the ball rolling so they don’t have to go through this right before the state contest.”
FFA events also allow students to learn from each other.
“They bring other kids in who have similar interests and they feed off of each other, and you see all the opportunities,” Winward said. “It opens up your eyes in a lot of different way that you can’t get in your own little circle.”
Winward also said the contest is beneficial for SUU students.
“We actually would like for this to be an SUU student-run contest, to give them the experience of putting something together like this and to be in charge and to develop leadership and organizational skills,” Winward said. “I don’t need that much more experience, but my students do. It’s good to be put into a responsible position and provide a service to the community and to the high schools and the FFA programs and agriculture in general.”