HIGH school agriculture students from across the San Luis Valley competed in the FFA Range Judging and Plant Identification workshop held on Sept. 21 at the Nick Berlinger farm. 

The rangeland educational youth event involved 35 agriculture students representing four FFA chapters in the San Luis Valley. Winning FFA teams were Sargent first place; Sangre de Cristo second place; Centauri third place; and Alamosa fourth place.

During the competition students were required to identify 20 range plant species and one ecological site. During the plant identification portion students had one minute to identify the plant before moving on to the next plant.

At the ecological site, students had 30 minutes to complete a rangeland inventory to determine the rangeland condition of the site, analyze the condition of the soil surface for protection from erosion, and determine the proper stocking rate for the ecological site. Judging the ecological site also tested the students’ plant identification skills.

The Range Judging Contest is one of many FFA Career Development Events (CDE’s) agriculture students can participate in to test their skills and knowledge learned through their agricultural education classes. Through the Range Judging Contest students are tested on their plant identification skills and reading the landscape to determine the ecological site, condition of the rangeland, amount of usable forage, and number of animals that can be properly supported on the land.

This youth educational event was sponsored by the Mosca-Hooper Conservation District, Rio Grande Watershed Conservation & Education Initiative (RGWCEI), Nick and Alicia Berlinger, and the Colorado Section of the Society for Range Management (CSSRM) as part of its youth activities program.

The event was hosted by the Sangre de Cristo FFA Chapter, where Matt Sinclair is agriculture teacher and FFA advisor. Other sponsors were several of the conservation districts across the Valley. 

“The generous support of these sponsors is greatly appreciated. Thank you to all the FFA advisors, bus drivers, Mosca-Hooper Conservation District, local Conservation Districts in the Valley, the Rio Grande Watershed Conservation & Education Initiative, and the Colorado Section of the Society for Range Management for helping make this event a success for all the participating high school agriculture students.

“A special thank-you goes out to Nick & Alicia Berlinger for allowing the use of their rangeland for this educational youth event.”


Trenton Paskett, right, Sargent FFA, won highest individual achievement for both plant ID and ecological site judging. Phoenix Marshall, Sangre de Cristo FFA, was the high scoring individual for plant identification.

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