Students compete in the Northeast Colorado Regional FFA Range Judging Contest on Sept. 25 at Prairie School | TheFencePost.com

Students compete in the Northeast Colorado Regional FFA Range Judging Contest on Sept. 25 at Prairie School

NEW RAYMER, Colo. — A group of 21 FFA students were allowed only a pencil and two sheets of paper, one white and one salmon.

Joshua Polson/jpolson@greeleytribune.com | The Greeley Tribune | Hannah Kinnison, 15, kneels down in a pasture near Prairie School outside of New Raymer, Colo. Kinnison was one of 64 students competing in the range judging event.

Each of them stood behind one of the 30 range plants placed on a U-shaped table.

"And you may begin," the proctor said.

Joshua Polson/jpolson@greeleytribune.com | The Greeley Tribune | Emma Stump, 16, a sophomore at Prairie School in New Raymer, Colo., crouches in the pasture during the range judging contest at Prairie School, about an hour northeast of Greeley, Colo..

The students were among 64 who competed in the Northeast Colorado Regional FFA Range Judging Contest on Sept. 25 at Prairie School about an hour northeast of Greeley, Colo. The contest had three sessions for students to apply what they've learned about rangelands.

During the plant identification section, students filled out the white sheet of paper with the type of plant and other facts about it. The salmon paper had the names of possible range plants the students could see in northeastern Colorado. The students had 60 seconds to identify each plant.

Joshua Polson/jpolson@greeleytribune.com | The Greeley Tribune | Ashley Scott, 15, pokes one of the plants that she has to identify during the range judging contest at Prairie School in New Raymer, Colo.

Some of the students thought identifying the plants without knowing the habitat made the task harder than expected.

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"It would have been easier to identify the plants out in a field because you can see where they are and the other kinds of plants they're by," said sophomore Mitch Dollerschell from Prairie School.

Joshua Polson/jpolson@greeleytribune.com | The Greeley Tribune | Cody Legg, 15, glances down at one of the plants he is supposed to identify during the rangeland contest at Prairie School in New Raymer, Colo.

Other sessions focused on ecological sites lasted about an hour each and were at two off-site public lands, including one used by the school's agriculture education program.

The kids had to identify the plants and the conditions of the land they were on. They also needed to evaluate other information about the land, including how many animals could use the land to graze or the amount of usable forage.

Photo courtesy Emmett Jordan | | Overall high-scoring individual, Ainlsey Powell from the Merino FFA chapter, receives her award from Colorado Society for Range Management president Josh Saunders. The plaque was sponsored by the Colorado Society for Range Management.

The contest is a tool for FFA students to learn and understand how to assess rangelands for ranching and farming. The students were members of one of the eight participating FFA programs from Akron, Liberty, Peetz, Idalia, Merino, Greeley West, Prairie and Holyoke.

"This is very important. This is part of their history, living here," said Prairie agriculture teacher and FFA adviser Jenny Evans. "If nothing else, they can walk away and say, 'I learned a little bit about where I come from,' and carry that with them and apply that, hopefully, even if they don't go anywhere in agriculture."

Photo courtesy Emmett Jordan | | High-scoring individual in range plant identification Cheyenne McGuire receives her award from Colorado Society for Range Management president Josh Saunders. The plaque was sponsored by the Colorado Society for Range Management.

FIRST CONTEST

This was the first regional rangeland competition in northeastern Colorado. The goal was for the students to apply their lessons from agriculture classes in the field.

Photo courtesy Emmett Jordan | | The Merino FFA chapter won the gold award in the 2017 Northeast Colorado FFA Rangeland Judging Contest.

Ben Berlinger is a range management specialist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service. He played a large part in setting up the contest.

"It's vitally important," Berlinger said. "I take rangeland as being a pretty important part of agriculture … so hopefully some of these people will look into agriculture, and more specifically rangelands, as a career."

There were eight kids from Greeley West at the contest. Their adviser, Sam Maxwell, said the kids have studied and prepared for the contest since classes started. Going to New Raymer to compete was a good opportunity since the kids are from an urban area, she said.

Plus, according to Emmett Jordan, just learning the names of the different plants changes the way anyone sees them.

For Dollerschell and fellow sophomore Emma Stump from Prairie, they're able to take this knowledge home and use it right away.

"My grandpa and my dad have already told me I'm going to have to go out to our pastures and judge our range," she said with a small laugh. ❖

— Samantha Fox is a reporter for The Fence Post. Contact her with story ideas, questions and comments at (970) 392-4410, sfox@thefencepost.com or on Twitter @FoxonaFarm

NE Colorado Rangeland Judging Results

Ainsley Powell, Merino Highest overall score

Cheyenne McGuire, Akron Highest plant ID score

First place team Merino

Second place team Akron

Third place team Holyoke

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