Thursday, October 1, 2015

Organizer's Wrap-Up: 2015 Region V Soil Judging Contest, Grand Rapids, MN

2015 Region V Soil Judging Contest Organizers, Faculty, Assistant Coaches and Students at the Sawmill Inn, Grand Rapids, MN. September 25th, 2015.
Serving as the organizer for this year's Region V Soil Judging contest was a unique and rewarding experience. It allowed me to work closely with many of our partners within the state (the U.S. Forest Service, USDA-NRCS, and the Minnesota Association of professional Soil Scientists) and deepen our relationships to form a foundation for future success in our joint research, outreach and education efforts.

For those of us who are passionate about Soil Science we find ourselves at a crucial crossroads. Soils information is in higher demand than it has ever been, with food security, resource management and climate change at the top of almost every agenda. This, while at the same time the number of strictly soil-oriented faculty and students continue to shrink shows the major challenges facing our discipline.

Fortunately, major opportunities lie on the horizon. Students with a technical background in soils (even as a minor) are in ever higher demand than their counterparts and can contribute in a more meaningful way to the missions of their organizations. And getting students into the field to experience and explore the land through the lens of Soil Science crosses all disciplinary boundaries, which opens major opportunities for growth in education, research and outreach.

Soil Judging remains one of the most important experiential opportunities for our students and will continue to serve as an anchor upon which the foundation of the future of the educational portion of our discipline rests. I challenge anybody to find a group who is more excited, inquisitive and determined to apply real knowledge in the field than these students. They are not afraid to get wet, get dirty, smell, and even taste soil in order to gain more experience. This is what will set these students apart as they begin their careers in whatever field and whatever locale they may find themselves. It is what will allow them to connect to others through a shared love of the land, and through that they reflect the true core of the United States Land Grant mission.

The support from partners and participants which made this year's competition happen was overwhelming. A huge thank you goes out to all of the faculty members, assistant coaches and students who participated; to USDA-NRCS for providing a backhoe, logistical support and technical assistance for the practice and contest pits; thanks to the U.S. Forest Service, particularly Dr. Randy Kolka and Jim Gries, for providing facilities and logistical assistance for contest day and practice days; the University of Minnesota's North Central Research and Outreach Center for their assistance in providing a practice site; and finally many members of the Minnesota Association of Professional Soil Scientists for volunteering their time in support of this contest.

Official Results and Award Winners:
Individual Judging:
1st  - Erin Bush, Kansas State University
2nd - Casey Campbell, Iowa State University
3rd - Matt Levan, Iowa State University
4th - Chris Weber, Kansas State University
5th - Sondra Larson, University of Minnesota

Group Judging:
1st - South Dakota State University
2nd - Iowa State University (by tiebreaker)
3rd - University of Minnesota (by tiebreaker)

1st - University of Minnesota
2nd - Iowa State University
3rd - Kansas State University*

*NOTE: Because Kansas State University is hosting the 2016 National Soil Judging Contest, they are not eligible to compete. Therefore Region V will be sending The University of Minnesota, Iowa State University and South Dakota State University to the National Contest. The University of Nebraska will be the Alternate Team for the National Contest from Region V.

Thank you everyone for your assistance, motivation and dedication. Kick the tires and light the fires…we'll see you in the pits!!

Nic Jelinski