By Doug Graves
GREENVILLE, Ohio – Tri-Village FFA members are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and get a little dirty. You see, soil is their forte.
Last month, the Tri-Village FFA Soils teams finished first in District 5 of the FFA State Soil Judging Contest. The placement qualified the unit to state competition in October, where the Ag Soils team finished seventh and the Urban Soils squad finished 10th. There are 10 State Soil Districts in Ohio.
“Not only was that the first national soils team to qualify from Tri-Village, but it was the first team in the 91-year history of New Madison/Tri-Village to place in the Top 5 of a Career Development Event, earning us a Blue & Gold banner from the Ohio FFA,” said Justin Slone, Tri-Village ag educator and FFA advisor.
Agricultural Soil contests consist of an array of topics that affect a field’s efficiency and ability to produce a targeted crop. Students evaluate a soil’s nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and pH levels, along with the soil’s capability to withstand erosion, compaction and sustain water quality and cumulatively determining the Best Management Practices for the land’s agricultural uses.
Tri-Village Agriculture Education and FFA, a satellite program of Miami Valley Career Technology Center, have been under the direction of Slone the past six years.
Slone’s father was an ag teacher in Preble County for 33 years. His father qualified 11 teams for national soil competition. “I guess it was bred in me to do this,” Slone said.
In this District 5 event, Tri-Village senior Kate Gross was tops with 665 points. Senior Madison Crawford was second overall with 661 points. Sophomore Macy Howell finished 15th and senior Luke Drew was 18th.
The Tri-Village Urban Soils team was named District 5 runner-up. Sophomore Kiersten Wilcox finished 10th overall. Freshman Lucas Howell and juniors Breanna Lipps and Natalie Miller placed in the top 25.
Prior to districts, Tri-Village competed at the county level and met with other competitors in Darke County.
In this year’s Darke County contest, the Tri-Village Agricultural Soils team finished first. Gross was the high points individual. Other finishers included Crawford (2nd), Lainey Miller (5th), Kiannah Jones (7th), Macy Howell (8th), Luke Drew (14th), Paul Brewer (17th), Devon Huff (22nd), Keaden Lipps (24th) and Alivia Dunlap (28th).
The remaining members competed in the Urban contest, which is developed to determine the lands best management practices regarding septic systems, buildings with basements as well as landscapes and roadways. For the second year in a row, Tri-Village FFA members finished first as a team. Competing were Kiersten Wilcox (high points individual), Breanna Lipps, Natalie Miller, Levi Bergman, Kaleb Martin, Camron Kimmle, Isaac Keiser, Johnny Phillips, Darcy Miller, Eli Hiatt, Mason Weathington, Kayla Thobe, Lucas Howell, Peyton Watern, Grant Howell and Michael Leugers.
Slone’s squad at Tri-Village is on a roll of sorts. Last year the Tri-Village FFA agricultural soils team qualified for the 2021 National Land and Range Judging Contest in Oklahoma City placing third in Ohio. That event, however, was scrubbed due to COVID-19.
“The good news, though, was that all four of my students who qualified for nationals that year returned this year,” Slone said.
The group competed in rural soils as well as urban soils competition. Rural soils judging involves soil fertility, living organisms, the agricultural use of soils and the like.
In last year’s District 5 event, Crawford placed third out of 1,083 individuals in Ohio and was the lone team member to compete in the state contest in 2019. Katlin Gross finished 7th in the state. Other members competing that year were Macy Howell, Seth Cook and Wyatt Plush.
“There are roughly 400 students at Tri-Village High School. Sixty of those students in grades 9-12 are involved in FFA, with another 40 eighth graders in ‘rotation’ where they take initial FFA classes,” Slone said. “FFA here at Tri-Village began in 1929, a year after FFA was started here in Ohio in 1928.”