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South Dakota Teams Perform Well at National Land, Range & Homesite Judging Contest

The Butte-Lawrence-Jackson 4-H Range team.
The Butte-Lawrence-Jackson 4-H Range team brought home the national championship. Presented with their awards, from left to right, Bennett Gordon, Morgan Mackaben, Farynn Knutson, Tate Ollila, coach Brandy Knutson, and coach Dave Ollila.

BROOKINGS, S.D. - After two years of cancellations, a record attendance of more than 1,000 FFA and 4-H members competed in the National Land, Range, and Homesite Judging contest according to the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, the contest’s main sponsor. The Cheyenne Arapaho Tribal Agency near El Reno, Oklahoma, hosted the range and land judging event on May 5.

"Range and soils judging provides young people with a strong understanding of how important rangelands are not only in South Dakota, but across the Northern Great Plains and beyond,” said Krista Ehlert, assistant professor in the Department of Natural Resource Management and SDSU Extension Range Specialist. “It fosters their critical thinking skills and gears them up to be understanding neighbors, voters and potential land managers in the future."

In the range judging 4-H competition, the Butte-Lawrence-Jackson 4-H range team brought home the national championship title. Farynn Knutson was recognized as the national champion individual followed by Morgan Mackaben placing second, Tate Ollila placing third, and Bennett Gordon placing eighth. The team is coached by Brandy Knutson and Dave Ollila.

The Wessington Springs 4-H range team earned reserve champion honors at the contest. Team members included Kristie Munsen placing fifth, Quinten Christensen placing 11th, Kaden Wolter placing 12th and Austin Schimke placing 14th. The team is coached by Craig Shryock.

"Range and soils judging provides young people with a strong understanding of how important rangelands are, not only in South Dakota, but across the Northern Great Plains and beyond."

— Krista Ehlert, Assistant Professor & SDSU Extension Range Specialist
Wessington Springs 4-H range judging team
The Wessington Springs 4-H range judging team received reserve champion honors in the Range Judging 4-H Competition. Pictured receiving their awards are team members, from left to right, Kristie Munsen, Quinten Christensen, Kaden Wolter, and Austin Schimk

The Kadoka FFA range judging team placed eighth in the FFA range division. Team members included Tyler Ring, Emily Zickrick, Maxwell Zickrick, and Madison Brown. The team was coached by FFA Advisor Brandy Knutson. Other South Dakota FFA teams participating included the Hitchcock-Tulare FFA and Webster FFA chapters.

The McCook County 4-H homesite judging team also captured a national championship. Team members included Ella Stiefvater placing second, Grace Diogiovanni placing fifth, Jonathon Schock placing 17th and Mason Pulse placing 19th. The McCook County team was coached by Terry Rieckman.

The Wessington Springs 4-H homesite team received fourth place honors. Team members included Cheyenne Burg placing eighth, Braydin Labore placing 16th, Blake Larson placing 18th  and Carter Gaikowski placing 27th. The team was coached by Lance Howe and Craig Shryock.

The Willow Lake FFA land team placed eighth out of 100 teams in the National Land Judging Contest. Team members included Jack Bratland, Maddie Urke, Emma Peterson and Wyatt Anderson. The team is coached by Dan Tonak. Other South Dakota land judging teams included Hitchcock-Tulare FFA, West Central FFA, Philip FFA and Tripp County 4-H.

"Opportunities to expose students to the study of range and land resource management provide them with skills and understanding of valuable natural resources that drive the economies of rural America,” said Dave Ollila, South Dakota Soil Health Coalition Soil Health Specialist. “Many students will go on to pursue careers which require the knowledge of soils and range resource management.”

The land, range and homesite evaluation opportunities offered in South Dakota are coordinated by members of the South Dakota Section of the Society for Range Management (SRM). The state sponsored events are supported with technical assistance from personnel within the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, SDSU Extension, USDA Forest Service, USDI Bureau of Land Management, US Fish and Wildlife, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, ranchers and other range and soil professionals.

Financial sponsors for this national educational opportunity include the South Dakota Section of the Society for Range Management, South Dakota Soil Health Coalition, South Dakota Grassland Coalition, South Dakota Stockgrowers Association and the South Dakota FFA Foundation.

Youth wishing to participate in these events can contact their county’s 4-H program coordinator or school’s FFA advisor. The 4-H range and land judging team qualification contest will occur in Murdo at the South Dakota Rangeland and Soils Days on June 14 and 15. 

For more information, contact Valerie Feddersen with the Jones County Conservation District at 605-669-2404, ext. 3 or Krista Ehlert, SDSU Extension State Range Specialist, at 605-394-2236 or