Carter County students place in National 4-H Forestry Invitational

Published 4:23 pm Monday, September 3, 2018

The Carter County 4-H Forestry Team placed 12th in the nation at the 39th annual National 4-H Forestry Invitational. The Invitational was held Sunday, July 29, through Thursday, Aug. 2, at West Virginia University Jackson’s Mill State 4-H Camp and Conference Center near Weston, W.Va. Teams from Alabama, North Carolina, Florida, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin competed in this year’s event.

The Tennessee team members were Haley Rankhorn from Roan Mountain, Kaci Ritchie of Elizabethton, John Tapp of Elizabethton and Alayna Turbyfield of Elizabethton. The team was coached by retired agriculture teachers Buddy Farmer and Bill Meredith, retired extension agent Keith Hart and 4-H Agent Emily Barton. A special thank you was also issued to James Heaton and Brandon Stout with the Tennessee Division of Forestry and retired East Tennessee Forester Martin Miller for their help preparing the team for competition. While at the Invitational, 4-H members competed for overall team and individual awards in several categories. Events included tree identification, tree measurement, compass and pacing, insect and disease identification, topographic map use, forest evaluation, the forestry bowl and a written forestry exam.

The goal of the National 4-H Forestry Invitational and the Tennessee 4-H Forestry Judging programs in addition to developing an appreciation for conserving forests for a variety landowner purposes are to help students develop leadership and citizenship skills, public speaking, and character development for career success, not only in the forestry industry, but in all pursuits. Students who participate in Judging Teams are learning and practicing decision-making skills and teamwork as they work to achieve a common goal. They are learning to find and use credible sources to evaluate scenarios and present recommendations based on credible evidence and fact.

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In preparation for this contest, the Carter County 4-H Team had to qualify at regional competition in September 2017 and place first at state competition in October 2017 to have the opportunity to compete at the National 4-H Forestry Invitational. Upon achieving these goals, the team met weekly and studied independently to learn the new skills needed for the Invitational. The team traveled around the region to Roan Mountain State Park, Sycamore Shoals, Rotary Park, Gap Creek Forestry Station, Bays Mountain State Park, and many other locations to build their skills.

In addition to hard work and dedication of the team, our coaches, former educators of Carter County, used their many years of combined experience teaching youth to prepare the college level material for students to be able to learn efficiently. This group volunteered countless hours and traveled many miles to collect tree samples and prepare for the various parts of the contest. Our volunteers were able to make new partnerships with businesses and citizens in our community to help our team be successful.

The National 4-H Forestry Invitational would not be possible without the generous support of our local sponsors who donated to help the team prepare and attend the contest: American Stave, The Clark Family Foundation, Carter County Soil Conservation District, East Tennessee Nursery Association, DBA New Look Outdoor Services, and several private donors.

Additionally, thank you to the sponsors of the National 4-H Forestry Invitational: Farm Credit System, Sustainable Forestry Initiative, Inc., USDA Forest Service State and Private Southern Region, West Virginia University Extension Service, American Forest Foundation, Southern Regional Extension Forestry, Society of American Foresters, Association of Natural Resource Extension Professionals, Columbia Forestry Products, F & W Forestry, National Woodland Owners Association, and Black Diamond Resource Conservation and Development Council.

4-H is a youth education program opened to all youth in 4th to 12th grades. More than six million youth, 540,000 volunteers, and 3,500 professionals participate in 4-H nationwide, and nearly 100,000 are part of the 4-H Forestry Program.

To be involved in opportunities like this one in Carter County, please contact UT Extension in Carter County at (423) 542-1818.