“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.”
When Franklin D. Roosevelt used these words in the first hundred days of 1933, he was introducing the U.S. to a new way of thinking. In the previous few years, our country had suffered through some of the worst economic times in our history, which were only compounded by a drought in our nation’s heartland that would eventually render millions of acres of farmland useless.
With the help of his interior secretary, they established the Soil Erosion Service in August of that year and put Hugh Hammond Bennett in charge.
In 1935, the name was changed to the Soil Conservation Service and it was transferred to the Department of Agriculture (and later changed to the current Natural Resources Conservation Service).
By the early 1940s, major universities were incorporating soil science into their curriculums, and started using competitions related to wise land usage and management in an effort to help teach their students. And by the early 50s, these contests were part of a high school competition for vocational agriculture students nationwide.
The desire to conserve our soils is still alive today, but in the meantime, we have learned a lot about how important our soils are. They are not only the basis for nearly all of our food production, but the study of soil science has led us to a better understanding of how to build our roads, where to build our houses and where to place our septic tank absorption fields.
In our area, and especially the coverage area of Farm & Dairy, local high schools take soils judging pretty seriously each fall. Although FFA sponsors nearly 40 different competitions during each school year, the soils contest is one of the most popular for students to compete in.
The district contest is early in the school year, with advancing students competing statewide around the middle of October. Since there are nearly 500 different soil-type combinations in Ohio, every contest is different, and each year it is hosted by a different county.
As a pleasant result, each county’s soil and water district is involved in helping to coordinate their respective event. Students have the option of competing in the rural or the urban competition.
In the rural soils, students evaluate the physical properties of soil and assess the most appropriate use and management style for that particular soil type. The urban soils contest is geared toward understanding the limits and hazards associated with each soil type during the construction process.
For Ohio FFA District 8, which includes schools from Caldwell to Carrollton and West Muskingum to Edison, 127 students competed in the rural division with Ridgewood High taking the team award. Forty-five students entered the urban contest, with Buckeye Trail’s team winning in that category.
At the state level, Ridgewood went on to place 10th out of 50 teams, and Buckeye Trail placed 15th, so our area was well represented.
On a somewhat personal note, one of Noble County’s students, Landon Tomcho from Shenandoah High School finished second at the district and 57th at the state.
All of us, at every local Soil and Water Conservation District, would like to congratulate every student who participated in this year’s soil judging, and wish you all well in the future.
We can’t forget that the future of our country depends on our youth, and the future of our natural resources does, as well.
(Jim Mizik has been the district technician for the Noble Soil and Water Conservation District for 11 years. He also raises beef cattle with his son, Jeremy, on his family farm.)