Piqua Daily Call Full Article By Cody Willoughby

TROY — Lost Creek Reserve served as host to over 400 participating FFA students on Wednesday during this year’s District 5 FFA Soils Career Development Event.

The event attracted participants from 34 school districts in Auglaize, Darke, Mercer, Miami, Montgomery, Preble, and Shelby counties.

“We rotate through counties to host,” confirmed Covington UVCC-FFA adviser Jessica Helsinger. “The counties are on a seven-year cycle, and this was Miami County’s year. The contests are called ‘career development events’, because students are practicing skills that soil scientists use professionally. We teach them in the classroom, and then this is their hands-on experience.”

At the event, students were split into teams for rural and urban soil assessment, cycling through five stations in 20-minute increments. Stations included three soil pits that allowed students to conduct measurements and evaluations on the soil’s urban and rural soundness for use, a multiple-choice assessment to test general knowledge on topsoils, and a soil survey test, in which students interpreted a survey taken of the land at Lost Creek.

According to Miami East High School FFA adviser Marie Carity, students are able to make recommendations how to best manage facilities during their evaluations, whether the soil will be used for farming, or as the foundation for a large building.

“This is all directly tied to industry standards,” Carity said. “Industry experts and stakeholders give us all sorts of advice to make sure that our students could be future soil scientists. They could be a team member that would go in to develop a site, or a team member that goes in to take over a farm and give recommendations to a farmer on how to best manage their facilities. Not every site is perfect, and it’ll all have limitations on how to best manage that.”

George Derringer, resource soil scientist for the Englewood division of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), was on site to officiate the event.

“This land has been farmed a long time,” Derringer said. “In the early days, it was farmed pretty hard. There’s some significant erosion that’s happened here, but the land offers a good diversity of soil types. We’d like to show the teams different things to learn something new about how different soils occur on different landscapes, and they’re able to do that here. I think it’s a good site. Being part of a reserve, they deliberately diversify as much as they can so that people are able to learn about agriculture in Ohio here.”

Linda Raterman, public relations specialist for Miami Soil and Water Conservation District, indicated Lost Creek Reserve is a terrific location to hold the event, due to its diversity of terrain and nearby resources.

“For the most part, we’ve got actual lanes for walking,” Raterman said. “We have a great parking area, and there’s locations for shelter if needed. As far as different soil types, there’s a great variety on this reserve they could choose from to get good representation of the soils they need.

“This gives students a chance to further test their knowledge after their ag teachers have been filling them with knowledge in the classroom. This is a way for them to get their hands on the soils and explore different types, textures, and surfaces.”

Five urban and five rural teams at the event will be chosen to go on to the state contest, which will be held in late October in the greater Columbus area. The location will be specified in the coming weeks. Teams that make it to the state level will also have the opportunity to continue on to the national competition, which will be held in Oklahoma in May.

“We’re hopefully making a few future soil scientists from this,” Carity said. “They may not go on to be directly involved in soils, but they may think, ‘I understand what soil scientists do now, and I’m really glad they do it.’ Sometimes we find a career, because we didn’t like something else. A lot of students learn from this and have a lifelong appreciation for what a soil scientist does.”

“We’d like to extend a thanks to the Miami County Parks District,” Raterman said. “They’ve been amazing.”

For more information on Lost Creek Reserve, located at 2385 State Route 41 east of Troy, visit www.miamicountyparks.com.