Land judging and homesite evaluation programs educate 4-H’ers about soil properties, management and suitability for homebuilding, land protection and conservation, water and the environment. In West Virginia, these practices are often used when building homes or for farming and agricultural purposes.
4-H youth from Barbour and Monroe County land judging and homesite evaluation teams applied concepts learned over months of training to overcome the competition’s challenges.
Barbour County’s 4-H Team was first place champions in the Land Judging and Homesite Evaluation categories.
Monroe County’s 4-H Land Judging Team earned the title of National Reserve Champions in homesite evaluation. It’s its second year in a row to claim that title, which is no small feat according to Roger Nestor, retired Barbour County WVU Extension agent who continues to help coach the Barbour County 4-H team.
“Barbour County’s program is the only county 4-H soils judging program in the nation to win two championships in the same year,” according to Nestor. He added that it’s the fifth time in the competition’s 63 years of existence to achieve that honor.
“West Virginia teams always do exceptionally well in these competitions,” said Josh Peplowski, WVU Extension Service Barbour County agent and land judging coach. “We use in-depth, hands-on training to ensure youths have a thorough understanding to gain the skills and knowledge needed to do their best,” he added.
Kelton Miller, a member of the Barbour County 4-H Land Judging Team, placed first in the individual land judging category. Miller earned a score of 284 out of 300 total points possible to become the individual national champion.
Other Barbour County team members also ranked high individually. Nathan Yocum earned the individual national reserve championship and Chloe Mouser had a perfect score in the homesite evaluation contest.
The victories for individuals and teams come from commitment, making sacrifices, hard work and long hours of practice, according to former WVU Extension Barbour County Agent Roger Nestor. Nestor and Peplowski collaborate to help train the teams for the national stage.
The Barbour County 4-H team began practicing last October, and met once a month until January. From then, until a week before the competition, they practiced two to three times per week.
Peplowski explains that one of the main challenges for the team is to learn a completely different set of standards in which to compete at nationals in another state.
“The soil in Oklahoma is very different from West Virginia’s soil, so the team practices on location for a week up until the competition.”
Participants gain experience in math and science while learning other valuable life skills such as teambuilding, responsibility and critical thinking. They also learn the importance of collaboration and working together to overcome challenges.
Peplowski says that land judging team alumni often include teachers, doctors and lawyers.
“4-H helps to develop the leadership skills youths utilize to become successful later in life,” said Nestor. “It’s always rewarding to see young people work hard and succeed. It’s even better to see how they use what they’ve learned to become successful later in life.”
Members of the Barbour County 4-H team include Miller, Mouser, Yocum and Mikhela Freeman. Peplowski and Nestor serves as team coaches.
Members of the Monroe County 4-H team include Alison Bartenslager, Laura Jane Dransfield and Brian Young. WVU Extension Service Monroe County Agriculture Agent Brian Wickline serves as coach.
To learn more about how 4-H positively impacts the lives of West Virginia’s youth, and how it has grown from more than agriculture into education of youths on topics like robotics, electricity, technology and many other science and math related areas, visit ext.wvu.edu.
CONTACT: Cassie Waugh, WVU Extension Service
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