by Wes Taylor, Wyoming FFA Media Intern
Usually shows and displays involving livestock are what one associates with fair. While these are a big part of any fair worth its salt, there are so many other things that youths can, and should, be involved in. Today our attention was on the Agronomy, Classroom, and Mechanics competitions. Students from across the state have spent their summers laboring away in the field, shop, or classroom in order to succeed today. Exhibits from each category were set up across the FFA building showcasing many skills: foraging, scouting, writing, researching, welding, and carpentry. Projects line the walls and sit in racks especially made to display them while ag teachers judge them.
In the Agronomy Competition, students enter various forages, crops, and seeds that they have spent the summer growing or scouting for. Eleven-foot corn stands against the back wall, sheaths of alfalfa and grass hay sit on the tables and line the shelves, and rotund sugar beets are displayed next to plump bags of crop seeds. There are also mounts of weeds under several categories that students have no doubt searched tirelessly for. The crops are judged based on a few things: quality, size, uniformity, color, and how well they are presented. There is a big difference between a display that has been thrown together and one that someone took their time to square up and round out. Much care goes into raising or finding these things, just like with any animal.
Next to the Agronomy section is the Classroom Competition. This includes research projects over different agricultural topics, such as soil microorganisms, water availability, barley growth, and whether or not to “Hide the Hair or Shag it Out.” These experiments are ran using the scientific method and numerous trials. There are also other projects in the Classroom Competition, like scrapbooks, notebooks, and record books. These allow students to show off their organizational skills and creative crafting skills. All of the expertise learned through the Classroom Competition is easily transferable to the academic and professional lives of students, thus making them invaluable.
Finally, we have the Mechanics Competition. This of course includes things like welding projects, but also extends to woodworking. All of the creations are sturdy and well built; some of the notable ones include truck grill guards, a plasma-cut firepit with wildlife details, and underwhelmingly named “metal chair” built from old farm equipment parts. There are also boards where students’ welding skills are displayed. Next to the metal projects are woodworking ones. There are Adirondack chairs, a beautifully painted bench, and a set of tables made from an old hardwood high school gym floor. The craftsmanship in all of these is apparent, and the shop skills developed while building these will last a lifetime.
It may not be the most glamorous event of the week, but all of the hard work and effort that went into these competitions deserves multitudes of recognition. So many students dedicated time from many days, probably filled with work and raising their livestock projects, to forage, research, organize or build. All of these skills take time and dedication, which are often taken for granted in today’s world. FFA members are working on these skills constantly through all kinds of projects and carry the competence they’ve gained throughout their whole lives.