Four West Virginia teams recently competed in the National Land Judging and Home Site Evaluation Contest in Oklahoma City, with two 4-H squads winning first and second place in land judging.

The 4-H team from Barbour County placed first in the contest; Wirt County took second-place honors. FFA teams from Hundred High School and Tyler County also competed in the contest that hosted 31 4-H and 120 FFA teams from around the country.

“We are extremely proud of our West Virginia 4-H teams for placing first and second in the nation,”said Jeff Skousen, West Virginia land judging coordinator and professor of soil science at West Virginia Universitys Davis College of Agriculture, Forestry and Consumer Sciences.”The coaches and team members worked extremely hard to prepare for the contest. We represented West Virginia well, and this is quite an accomplishment.”

Land judging is an educational program aimed primarily at junior and senior high school students. Students must be able to judge land and soil factors that may limit the use of site, such as erosion, surface runoff and slope. These factors must be determined without the aid of tools and equipment. Land judging grew out of the annual 4-H and FFA Soil Conservation schools in 1941 at the Red Plains Experiment Station in Guthrie, Okla., and the first contest was held in 1943.

Skousen, who coordinates West Virginia youths land judging activities, ensures that state contests are properly conducted and personally designs four events and the West Virginia 4-H and FFA contests each year. He also assists state teams and their coaches by coordinating

strategies and encouraging students. In addition to his duties at the Davis College, Skousen is also WVU Extensions land reclamation specialist.

“Land judging and homesite contests are very practical,”he said.”They teach students different properties of soils, how to manage them in an agricultural setting and when selecting a site for building a home site. I believe that kids retain information much better in this context. It requires students to literally get their hands dirty to judge the properties of the soil.”

About 4,500 junior high and high school students are taught land-judging principles each year in West Virginia. After competing in annual state events, state FFA and 4-H winners are sent to the national contest in Oklahoma. West Virginia 4-H and FFA teams have each captured eight national championships since 1959.