There comes a time in everyone’s life when certain things
will occur, whether they like it or not. For me, it always has been knowing when
to accept defeat and take constructive criticism in stride, especially when I
was in FFA during my high school days.
Growing up, I always would hear stories from my dad about
the time he and his fellow FFA members did so well at the state soils judging
contest back in the day, how they advanced to the national-level contest in
Oklahoma, that I couldn’t wait to get my hands dirty learning the different
types of soil and how to classify them.
In soils evaluation, just like it is in several other
judging contests, including crops, dairy and livestock, I was able to start
judging during middle school in the 4-H division. I’m not going to lie — if I
did, my dad most certainly would call my bluff — I struggled from the beginning
for a few reasons.
No. 1, there is math involved, and it doesn’t take a rocket
scientist to know that when it comes to math and me, we just do not add up. No
No. 2, soils judging takes a lot of memorization and
understanding. After figuring out what kind of parent material is in the top 40
inches of a six-foot hole, an individual then needs to determine if grassed
waterways or buffer strips could or should go on this area.
Whenever some of the high school students scored higher than
me, especially my older sister, who usually ended up being one of the top five
individuals in the contest, if not winning it, I would just mumble under my
breath something about how I’m young, not even in FFA and they should be scoring
higher than me anyway.
Well, that answer was enough to make me feel better about
myself not quite grasping all the core rules of judging soil and only
half-heartedly listening to my dad’s advice about how I would do better if I
spent extra time on the weekends studying my rules instead of watching
That is until my younger brother decided he wanted to start
judging, too. OK, he always wanted to judge, but when I started as a
sixth-grader it was just his first year in 4-H, and my dad told him he had to
wait until after he completed third grade to start competing.
To all of those reading this blog, please feel free to read
between the lines here and assume that what my dad said didn’t mean that Daniel,
my brother, had to wait until he was in fourth grade to start practicing. It
When he entered his first soils judging contest, Daniel won
the junior soils judgers age division, not only beating me and blowing my score
out of the water, but also scoring higher than quite a few of my dad’s senior
judgers, as well as senior FFA soils judgers from other FFA chapters who were at
A couple of tears, promises that I was quitting soils, angry
stares at my brother, several dozen before- and after-school soils practices and
many hours memorizing soils rules in front of a blank TV later, I finally beat
Although no fireworks were shot off or balloon drops let
loose when it happened, I forever will remember the moment because it was the
first time I actually accomplished a long-term goal that I had wanted to achieve
for many years.
Whether it is getting into the college of one’s dreams or
raising an animal that will go on to win grand champion at the county fair,
anything is possible when one finally realizes that people aren’t trying to
discourage them, but rather encourage them through pointing out areas in their
life and work where a little improvement could go a long way.