PAULLINA—The South O’Brien High School FFA Chapter’s knowledge of soils is solid.

The FFA chapter’s soils evaluation team traveled on Oct. 20 from Paullina to Iowa State University in Ames for the Iowa FFA Soils Evaluation Career Development Event and placed ninth out of 29 squads.

“We were right in the mix of things,” said South O’Brien FFA adviser Eric Kumm. “The top five teams advance to the national contest. Of course, that’s one of our goals. We were only five points out of getting into the fifth spot, so it was pretty close.”

Clarinda’s Brokaw FFA Chapter finished in first place with 525 points, followed by AGWSR of Ackley with 523, East Union of Afton with 502, Sigourney with 499, Manson Northwest Webster and Wapello each with 495, Montezuma and Ridge View of Holstein each with 494, South O’Brien with 491 and Clay Central-Everly with 488.

The top five teams from the state contest will represent Iowa at the 2019 National Land and Range Judging Contest April 30-May 2 in Oklahoma City.

South O’Brien was named a gold medal group for its score falling in the range of 488-525 points at the state contest, which is designed to provide students an opportunity to display their agricultural knowledge and skills in the area of soils evaluation.

This year’s state contest featured the evaluation of four soil pits that are about three-four feet deep, plus a 40-question written general knowledge exam about soils in Iowa.

The scorecard used to judge the soil pits was divided into five parts:

  • Surface features.
  • Soil features.
  • Land capability classification and productivity potential.
  • Evaluation of management practices.
  • Sustainability of soils for nonagricultural uses.

This year’s FFA soils evaluation team for South O’Brien is made up of junior Tony Sells and sophomores Kaeley Einck, Jack Farquhar and Angela Nyunt, who competed against 108 other individuals during the state contest.

Individually, Nyunt placed ninth, Sells finished 24th, Einck placed 41st and Farquhar finished 54th. Nyunt also had the top individual score — 38 out of 40 — on the written general knowledge exam about soils in Iowa.

“They ended up getting the second-highest test score for a team at state, missing by one point to have the top score,” Kumm said, noting that South O’Brien scored 106 out of 120, while Clarinda had the top score with 107.

South O’Brien qualified for this year’s state contest by winning the Northwest District FFA Soils Evaluation Career Development Event hosted on Sept. 27 by Morningside College in Sioux City.

“They kind of surprised me a little bit at districts when they won,” Kumm said. “They shouldn’t have surprised me.

“It was kind of a tough day of judging,” he said. “They had some different soils there that maybe we weren’t quite ready for, but they handled it really well and won.”

This year’s district competition was held on a farm near Moville, with 23 teams and 91 individuals evaluating four soil pits. Individually, Sells finished in fifth, Nyunt placed seventh, Farquhar finished in eighth and Einck placed 22nd.

The top five teams in each of the six district contests advanced to the state competition. Manson Northwest Webster, Ridge View, South O’Brien and Clay Central-Everly from the Northwest District of Iowa finished in the top 10 this year during the state contest.

South O’Brien has qualified for the state competition for 23 years in a row.

“Every year, I get a little nervous, I guess, because there’s a history behind it,” said Kumm, who is in his 24th year at South O’Brien. “These guys always work so hard and put a lot of time in that they shouldn’t surprise me, but I’m always surprised a little bit with how well they do.”