TEMPLE, Texas — Three FFA students, each from different communities in Texas, have traveled a long competitive path contending against peers throughout the state to win top honors in a statewide Soil Stewardship Public Speaking Contest. The event focused on the theme, “Watersheds-Our Water, Our Home”. Competitive finals were held at the 90th Texas FFA State Convention in Fort Worth, July 9-13.
Placing first and earning a scholarship in the amount of $3,000 was Kylar Pepper, a Delta County native, and a member of the Klondike FFA Chapter. Pepper earned the state award as a 2017-18 freshmen.
Pepper, in referencing Texas’ increasing population growth said, “As our population increases, human demands for water will grow so there is a need to ensure that there is adequate water for agriculture, industry and the environment. Decisions made now will have far reaching consequences for our state. Cooperation between the public and government has never been more important because water is a finite resource and it is imperative that this resource be used sustainably.”
Earning second place honors along with a $2,000 scholarship was Kameryn Mathis who is a recent graduate of Haskell High School and a member of the Haskell FFA Chapter. Ms. Mathis emphasized that, “Clean, healthy watersheds depend on an informed public to make the right decisions when it comes to community actions that affect the environment.” She also lay emphasis on urbanization, population growth, and subsequent development impacting Texas’ economy as well as its legacy of open spaces, clean water and water supplies.
Third place honors along with a $1,000 scholarship went to Caitlyn Muckensturm, a Denton County native and a junior at Krum High School.
Muckensturm is a member of the Krum FFA Chapter. She pointed out watersheds have three major functions to include capture, storage and release of water which is essential to protecting water quality. “Water quality can become impaired from a variety of contaminants originating from homes, agriculture, and wildlife which in turn can be harmful to public health”.
On behalf of the Association of Texas Soil and Water Conservation Districts (ATSWCD) which provides the scholarship funds Volney Hough, president of ATSWCD said, “The value of this initiative is that every student who participates in this program becomes an ambassador for agriculture and the soil and water conservation district program in Texas. Those of us involved in agriculture see that the population involved in production agriculture is declining which results in a public unable to completely understand food and fiber production from beginning to end.”
Concurring with what Volney said, José Dodier, Jr., chairman of the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board (TSSWCB) added, “Through this speech contest we try to support agricultural education by providing a means through which students can develop leadership skills and real-world awareness to accurately speak about renewable natural resources issues and how to address them. Furthermore, the program gives the student a better vision of the future of agriculture and how agriculture benefits the state and nation’s society as a whole,” added Dodier.
“The basic objectives of this year’s Soil Stewardship Public Speaking Contest was to engage students to demonstrate knowledge on how good watershed management contributes to the environmental and economic health of local communities as well as how soil and water conservation practices contribute to water quality and quantity,” said Hough.
“In order for the student to accurately speak about good watershed management practices, they needed to gain knowledge of what a soil and water conservation plan is, and what an array of land management practices are that makes up a conservation plan to meet site specific land capability needs linked with a landowner’s goals and objectives,” added Dodier.
The annual event is sponsored by the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board and Association of Texas Soil and Water Conservation Districts in cooperation with the Texas FFA Association.
–Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board
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