March 10, 2017
Twenty-nine students from five local high schools in Salinas, Watsonville, Gonzalez and Soledad will be competing next week in a land-judging contest, hosted by the FARMS Leadership Program and Resource Conservation District. The land-judging contest will be held on farmland south of Salinas managed by the local farming company, Christiansen and Giannini LLC. During the contest, students will evaluate three separate soil pits, typically 5 feet deep and 15 feet long, using evaluation criteria established by the California Future Farmers of America (FFA) and a standardized Soil Classification System. Each student begins by judging a pit’s soil characteristics at ground surface level, and then climbs down into the pit to continue evaluating the soil structure below ground, as soil properties that affect fertility, drainage and plant rooting change with depth.
The contest will be led by USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Soil Scientist Ken Oster, who will be rating the students based on their abilities to judge the physical features of the soil and land in order to determine the potential for crop production and the appropriate stewardship practices for protecting soil and maintaining crop productivity.
The winner of the land-judging contest will receive a scholarship for California Range and Natural Resources Camp at Elkus Ranch in Half-Moon Bay this summer, a week-long educational experience led by University of California Cooperative Extension. Range Camp provides participating high school students with a foundation in the physical and biological sciences. Range Camp also allows campers to interact with university faculty and agricultural career professionals, while providing the camper with an unforgettable opportunity to learn about rangeland, natural resource management education and career options, while surrounded by Half-Moon Bay’s beautiful landscape.
The FARMS Leadership Program is based out of the Center for Land-Based Learning in Winters, California, and has provided year-long ag-science training to promising students around the state of California every school year since 1995. This is the first year of the Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties program, which has grant-funding to run for three years. So far this school year, students participating in the program have visited four other agricultural production facilities.