In late February, some of the brightest high school minds and future natural resource professionals from all across Texas converged on Long Acres Ranch to compete in an invitational, Future Farmers of America, or FFA, Career Development Event.
Opportunities for future leaders and professionals
The National FFA Organization is an intracurricular student organization for those interested in agriculture and leadership. FFA students have opportunities through their schools to prepare for careers not only in agriculture and natural resource management but also in fields such as veterinary sciences, biology, chemistry, engineering and business to name a few.
Long Acres Ranch staff prepares for a fun day of experiential learning.
About an FFA Career Development Event
Events like this invitational Career Development Event help attending students to develop and polish skills that can prepare them in their pursuits for a college education or a career. Students can compete in events including categories like Ag communications, Ag sales, Entomology, Meats, Plant identification, Marketing and Veterinary Science to name a few. A complete list can be found at texasffa.org. The events hosted during the Tompkins CDE Invitational at Long Acres Ranch included Homesite, Land, Range and Wildlife and Recreation Management.
Where did the students come from?
FFA advisors drove some 187 students a cumulative 1,670 miles from across the Texas landscape to Richmond to compete in this event. Hondo High School traveled a lengthy 221 miles followed by Elgin High School who traveled 145 miles to participate. The remaining participating high schools were Anderson-Shiro, Brazos, Brenham, Bryan, Caldwell, Cinco Ranch, Cypress Falls, Cypress Ranch, Deer Park, Dulles, Klein, Klein Cain, Klein Forest, Oak Ridge, Pearland, Schulenburg, Sealy, Tarkington, Woodlands, Tomball, Tompkins, Wills and Yoakum.
Homesite: Introduces students to non-agronomic use of land including, but not limited to, the suitability of various types of land for building sites, home sanitation systems, impoundment structures, lawns and other construction considerations. Homesite was proctored by the team of soil scientists from the USDA-NRCS Rosenberg office consisting of Jon Wiedenfeld, USDA-NRCS MLRA Soil Survey Leader, Soil Scientist; Kenny Hall, USDA-NRCS Soil Scientist and Stacey Kloesel, USDA-NRCS Soil Scientist.
Land: Members of land evaluation teams judge sites based on characteristics of the soil and observations of landscape conditions, then recommend land treatments considering factors such as soil characteristics, vegetative conditions and planned use for the site. Land was proctored by the team of soil scientists from the USDA-NRCS Rosenberg office consisting of Jon Wiedenfeld, USDA-NRCS, MLRA Soil Survey Leader, Soil Scientist; Kenny Hall, USDA-NRCS Soil Scientist and Stacey Kloesel, USDA-NRCS Soil Scientist.
Range: This event helps students develop an interest in the industry that helps feed our state and nation. Range helps students understand the ways to better improve and conserve our natural resources of rangeland. This event provides an opportunity for mastery of foundational knowledge and understanding contributing to future learning and success in college-level coursework related to range management, soil evaluation and plant identification. Range was proctored by Wildlife Biologist Irvin Welch of the Wildlife Habitat Federation.
Wildlife and Recreation Management: This event supports instructional objectives related to management and conservation of natural resources for wildlife habitat, knowledge and respect for laws related to hunting and other outdoor recreational activities and safety. This event was proctored by a team of professionals consisting of Clint Faas, TPWD Wildlife Biologist; Barry Eversole, Texas Game Warden; Suzie Doe, Texas Master Naturalist; Jim Rogers, USDA-NRCS Wildlife Biologist and Todd Pilcik, TPWD Private Lands Biologist.
Students had the opportunity to identify plants in the Native Grass Restoration Demonstration Plot and make soil observations in several different ground pits.
A True Career Development Event for Kids
Many amazing volunteers came out to support the students and teachers and to highlight opportunities in employment and career readiness in various related fields. We were happy to have Vince Mannino, County Extension Director for Ft. Bend County Agrilife; Michael Scherer, Executive Director of Fishing’s Future; Leslie Wittenburg, Texas Wildlife Association Director of Education, L.A.N.D.S. Intensive; Brian Robert, Education Program Specialist, L.A.N.D.S. Intensive and Kitty Haynes, Texas Parks and Wildlife Area Chief for Hunter Education. These volunteers were on sight with booth materials to visit with kids about topics such as careers in Extension with Texas A&M Agrilife to opportunities to grow as leaders in Texas Brigades.
Texas Wildlife Association set up a "skins and skulls" table and promoted educational programming.
Events such as these don’t occur without a lot of help. Our Long Acres Ranch Staff including October Smith, Long Acres Ranch Manager; Scott Lightle, Long Acres Ranch and Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute Project Coordinator and Monique Degeyter worked diligently behind the scenes to make sure the event was a success. Tompkins High School advisors, Katy Sheffield, David Fleming and Chelbie Thompson sponsored the event and worked tirelessly to create this contest and make this a wonderful learning event for the attending youth.
Thanks to Brian and Leslie of Texas Wildlife Association for preparing an amazing breakfast and lunch for our volunteers!