Approximately 1,000 teenagers and adults – members of FFA and 4-H Chapters from throughout the United States and their parents, coaches and teachers — will come to Oklahoma City next week, as they have the first week of May for more than six decades, to compete in a national educational competition. The National Land and Range Judging Contest, a three-day event that stresses soil and plant science, land management and conservation, marks its 62nd anniversary beginning on Tuesday.
After two days of opportunity to visit practice sites, the event will culminate on Thursday, May 2, with the contest at a site whose location is kept secret until that morning, followed in the evening by an awards banquet at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.
The Land Judging contestants qualify for the national event by placing among the top five teams at contests in their home states, according to contest cochairman Kim Farber. Farber is president of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, one of the contest's principal sponsors. She says the teens match their skills in judging the adaptability of the land for various purposes including farming, range management and home development. She notes the skills the teens apply at the contest involve principles they can apply in career fields like environmental and agricultural management, natural resource conservation, homebuilding and construction.
Farber notes the idea of a land judging contest was invented by three Oklahoma conservationists in 1942. They decided which soil qualities could be judged and developed score cards to test skills. The idea caught on and Oklahoma City has been hosting the national contest since 1951.
As soon as the contestants arrive they will go to a practice site near Oklahoma City where numerous pits have been dug to give them a chance to analyze and learn more about Oklahoma soil conditions. Contestants also have the opportunity to examine Oklahoma range conditions for livestock grazing and wildlife management purposes.
The actual contest sites will remain secret until just before each contest, so no one has an unfair advantage. Farber says contestants will gather at the Biltmore Hotel to register, receive procedural instructions and await disclosure of the official contest sites. Coaches and contestants will then travel in a caravan to the site that is a tract of land in or near the greater metro area. The Land Judging Contest and the Homesite Evaluation Contest will begin at 9:15 a.m. on Thursday, followed by the start of the Range Judging contest at 9:30 a.m.
The event will end with an awards ceremony Thursday night in the Great Hall of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. National championship trophies will be awarded to team and individual winners in each category of competition including land judging, range judging, and homesite evaluation.