Conservation Awards Presented at Year End Banquets

At the end of each school year, the Manatee River Soil and Water Conservation District (MRSWCD) sponsors a Conservation Award for one student from each FFA or 4-H chapter who participated in one of the board’s events. The teacher provides the conservation district with the name of the deserving student, a member of the board then presents an award plaque to the student at the year end banquet. Additionally, the board makes a monetary donation to the participating FFA chapter or 4-H.

Students who are selected for the award may have won the conservation oriented speech contest. Or they may have been the high scoring member of their land judging team at the local or state level, for example.

Congratulations to the following students who won the Conservation Award in 2019!
Manatee County 4-H-Josephine Hoffner
Buffalo Creek Middle School FFA-Branden Rowe
Lakewood Ranch High School FFA-Dylan Gostkowski
Palmetto High School FFA-Leah Achenbach
Southeast High School FFA-Kyle Evans

Current non-partisan elected board members of the Manatee River Soil and Water Conservation District are:
Chairman: Jennifer Brunty, Ph.D.
Vice-Chair: John J. O’Connor, Jr.
Secretary/Treasurer: Paul Howard
Supervisor: Callon C. ‘Buddy’ Keen, Jr.
Supervisor: Ben King

Annual Events
Speech Contest– The speech competition in November is held for Manatee County middle and high school students as part of Farm City Week. The competition is designed to develop leadership through participation in public speaking activities and to stimulate interest in conserving our natural resources. The topic is selected by the Association of Florida Conservation Districts. The winner qualifies for an area contest and the winner of the area contest is eligible to compete at the state contest.

Speech contest 2nd place Leah Achenbach, a Conservation Award winner from Palmetto High School.

Land Judging– Land Judging is an exciting 4-H and FFA contest in which Middle and High School student teams of four observe and interpret the soil in order to make wise land use decisions. The local competition is held in February in different locations throughout Manatee County. Selected teams then move on to the state competition. Manatee County has had teams in the past qualify for the national competition held in Oklahoma. For more information about the state contest visit

4-H Senior team at Land Judging. Josephine Hoffner, Conservation Award winner for 4-H is far left.
Buffalo Creek Middle School 1st place team -Land Judging-with Conservation Award winner Branden Rowe far right


Envirothon– Envirothon is an environmentally themed academic competition for high school aged students. The Manatee regional competition held annually in February, is facilitated by the MRSWCD. Teams of 5 students take hands on exams in soils, wildlife, forestry, aquatics and a current issue. In 2019, ‘Agriculture and the Environment: Knowledge and technology to feed the world’ was the current issue. The winning team from each county is eligible to compete at the state contest, the overall winner of the state contest will represent Florida at the North American Envirothon later this summer. For more information about the state contest visit

Green is the New Black team from Manatee High School placed first at the regional contest and eighth place at the State competition.

Posted: June 5, 2019

Category: 4-H & Youth, Agriculture, , Conservation, Natural Resources

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