With an economic value of more than $900 million, the Louisiana forestry industry is the state’s highest valued agricultural commodity. Because of its role in the economy, it is important for youth to appreciate and understand the industry. The forestry contest at 4-H University is a great way to cultivate interest.
Natchitoches Parish 4-H has been well represented over the years at the state and national forestry contests. Since 2015, 11 youth from the parish have competed in the state contest, and all of them advanced to the National 4-H Forestry Invitational.
In April of 2021, Natchitoches Parish 4-H members Chance Fontenot, Josie Fontenot, Teegan McKnight and Gunner Nash began training for the state forestry contest at 4-H University. They had to be able to identify 50 native trees, 15 insects and 14 diseases. Additionally, they learned to measure diameter at breast height and merchantable height of 10 trees, take accurate compass readings, and estimate distance between two points by pacing. Lastly, they took a general knowledge test.
The team won first place at the state contest held in June 2021 at Camp Grant Walker in Pollock, Louisiana. Individual awards included the top four highest individual scores in the state with Teegan McKnight ranking at the top followed in order by Josie Fontenot, Gunner Nash and Chance Fontenot. The win qualified them for the National 4-H Forestry Invitational held in July 2021.
To prepare for the national contest, the team had one month to learn additional trees, insects and diseases from other areas of the country, as well as topographical maps, site evaluation and forestry information. The team placed third in the country with two top 10 individual scores: Josie Fontenot in eighth place and Teegan McKnight in ninth place.
The competitions also let McKnight and Nash carry on family traditions. They are both second generation state winners and national competitors.
This past June, a new Natchitoches Parish team took first place in the state at 4-H University. The 2022 team and their individual rankings included Caden Conley, first place; Roman Armstrong, fourth place; Brynn Landry, fifth place; and Sawyer Anderson, seventh place.
The team competed at the national contest held July 24-28 in West Virginia. There they not only placed second in the Forestry Quiz Bowl event but were also the second overall team in the nation. Additionally, Brynn Landry was the top individual in the Forest Health event. Individually they placed as follows: Caden Conley, third; Brynn Landry, fourth; and Sawyer Anderson, tenth.
The competitions foster learning about the industry and can provide a spark for youth to pursue a career in forestry. It is important for youth to continue to learn and develop an appreciation of the importance of this commodity, and the contests offer an excellent opportunity for youth to compete and travel the state and nation.
Randall Mallette is an LSU AgCenter extension agent for Natchitoches and Red River parishes.
This article appeared in the summer 2022 issue of Louisiana Agriculture magazine.
The second-place team at the 2022 National 4-H Forestry Invitational includes Natchitoches 4-H members, from left, Caden Conley, Sawyer Anderson, Roman Armstrong and Brynn Landry. Photo by Veronica Conley
The 2021 Natchitoches 4-H Forestry Team won first place at the state contest held at Camp Grant Walker in June 2021. Shown from left, coach Randall Mallette, Teegan McKnight, Josie Fontenot, Gunner Nash and Chance Fontenot. Photo by Coree McKnight