Hard work earns La. 4-H’ers first place in national competition

Mary Ann Van Osdell, Chandler, Brian R., Hutchins, Robbie  |  1/4/2011 1:08:19 AM

News Release Distributed 08/25/10

Louisiana’s team in the 31st annual National 4-H Forestry Invitational had only a short time to prepare for the event in which it placed first among 15 state teams.

The team trained in Baton Rouge July 6-9 for the July 25-29 competition at West Virginia University’s Jackson’s Mill State 4-H Camp and Conference Center near Weston, W.Va.

It was the first time Louisiana placed first since 1982, said Brian Chandler, LSU AgCenter forestry agent and one of the coaches. He has been associated with the forestry team since 1984.

At the event, 4-H members compete for overall team and individual awards in a written exam, tree identification and measurement, compass and pacing, insect and disease identification, topographic map use, the forestry bowl and forest evaluation.

“I am really, really proud of them,” said Robbie Hutchins, LSU AgCenter forestry agent and another coach. “They are amazing young people able to learn and process a huge amount of information in a short time.”

Other teams had studied since January, but Louisiana chooses its team from youth who were tops in forestry study at 4-H University held in June. The team members were Victoria Arnold, of Pleasant Hill; Taylor Falcon, of Broussard; Megan Farmer, of Converse, and Steffan McBride, of Iota.

“It was a long four days of training. We did nothing but study,” said Farmer, a senior at Converse High School who has been in 4-H since fourth grade.

To prepare for the competition, team members studied from tree and disease samples, insect collections and handbooks.

Farmer received the high-point individual award. The second-place high individual award went to McBride, and Arnold placed eighth overall.

Farmer said she enjoyed meeting people from all over the country. She recalls bragging about getting three inches of snow this year and hearing that other states got four feet.

Arnold, a senior at Pleasant Hill High School who wants to major in sports medicine and minor in biology, said she learned that “not everyone is the same cultural-wise or food-wise.” She also learned about snakes and sounds in the mountains.

“It wouldn’t be 4-H without educational classes,” said Arnold, who has been a 4-H’er for eight years and is state secretary. “Western trees were the hardest to identify.”

Hutchins said the team studied on the drive to West Virginia and stopped at a rest area to learn northern and eastern trees.

Farmer, who wants to become a physician assistant, was aware that the camp was Stonewall Jackson’s original home place.

Chandler said the dining hall is modeled after Mount Vernon and is the oldest 4-H camp in the United States.

The winning state gets a traveling clock in the shape of West Virginia with each county made of a different wood. Chandler is displaying it in his office.

Arnold and Farmer have spoken to the Rotary and Lions clubs in Sabine Parish about their experiences and made a PowerPoint presentation. A short video of them will be presented at the upcoming Louisiana Forestry Association meeting.

“We solicit donations from the forestry industry and landowners,” Chandler said.

The Farm Credit System, Chesapeake Energy Corp. and the Cooperative Extension Service sponsored the Louisiana 4-H’ers at the event.

More than 5.5 million young people participate in 4-H in the United States, and nearly 100,000 are part of the 4-H forestry program.

“It is a great tradition amongst 4-H’ers to complete,” Hutchins said. “Steffan’s uncle was on a team back in 1982-83 and helped coach him.”

For more information on the National 4-H Forestry Invitational, go to http://4hforestryinvitational.org/.

Mary Ann Van Osdell

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