Manatee County Land Judging Competitors Excel at State Contest

The 62nd annual Manatee County Land Judging competition, sponsored by the Manatee River Soil and Water Conservation District, was held in late February near the Quattlebaum house at the Lake Manatee Water Treatment Plant. Forty six students answered test questions concerning soil properties at four fields in such categories as slope, depth, texture, permeability, erosion, and nutrients. One of the fields represented a potential homesite location, and students were questioned on how well the land could serve as a building site. Winning teams qualified for the state contest. State and local results are shared below.

Condition poster for one of the sites in the land judging contest

Manatee County Results

High School FFA

Marissa Souders, FFA student from Parrish Community High School, won the I.H. Stewart Award, sponsored by Kimley-Horn and Associates with the highest individual overall score.

Dan West presents IH Stewart award to Marissa Souders.

A team from Parrish Community High School – Marissa Souders, James Keen, John Keen, and Makayla Chenard – advised by Susan Grainger won the Callon Keen Sr. Award, sponsored by the Keen family, for the highest scoring team overall.   They also placed first in the FFA high school division.

Callon Keen Sr. Award is presented by Jimmy and Holly Keen to the highest scoring team overall-Parrish Community High School FFA.

Placing second in the high school FFA division was a team from Palmetto High School – Hayden Neuman, Gabi Cruz, Kayla Burkhardt, and Brendan Perry – advised by Julie Tillett. A team from Southeast High School placed third – Noah Baylor, Payton Suggs, Caitlyn Cook, and Patricia Vesia-Flores – advised by Mike Buckley.

Middle School FFA

A team from Buffalo Creek Middle School – Kinley Harber, Kayden Kirby, Lane Spivey, and Chase Piccone – won the Travis Seawright Award, sponsored by the Manatee County Land Judging Alumni, for the highest scoring middle school team. They also placed first in the FFA middle school division.

Travis Seawright Award is presented to the highest scoring Middle School FFA team from Buffalo Creek Middle School by Dan West

Finishing in second place was another FFA team from Buffalo Creek Middle School – Jakob Tan, Chloe Munns, Emily Cohen, and Gabriella Young. Another team from Buffalo Creek Middle School placed third – Alyssa Doerrler, Adrianna Frisse, and Olivia Flamm. Steve Harber advised participating Buffalo Creek Middle School students.

Students from Braden River Middle School FFA joined the competition for the first time, advised by Jane Beach.


In the 4-H senior division, the team comprised of Rylee Skillman, Sydney Bliss, and Jake Pritchett placed first. Colin Nelson, Kallee Rhoades, Cole Arrant, and Cody Rhoades placed first in the 4-H intermediate division. Placing second in the 4-H intermediate division were Micah Foy, Clayton Reagan, and Caden Cone. All 4-H students were coached by Amy and Tom Arrant.

4-H Senior first place team.
4-H senior first place team.
4-H intermediate first place team.

Sponsors, staff, and volunteers

Alec Hoffner, Senior Scientist with Kimley-Horn and Associates, an alumnus of the Manatee County Land Judging contest served as Chief Judge.  Manatee River Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor Julie Tillett attended as did Dan West, Jimmy Keen, and Holly Keen. Manatee County Land Judging Alumni representative Dan West assisted with presenting the medals. The Callon Keen Sr. award was presented by Keen family members Jimmy and Holly Keen. Lunch was sponsored by Brett Reeder and Bart Hoopingarner representing UPL and Gowan, respectively. Manatee County Cattlemen’s Association provided tables and chairs. The Mosaic Company sponsored a tent and portable restrooms. Staff from Manatee County Extension Service, Sarasota County Extension Service, and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service were instrumental in conducting a successful contest. After the contest, Chief Judge Hoffner reviewed the results with the students.

Chief Judge Alec Hoffner reviews sites with students after the contest

State contest results

Congratulations to our FFA and 4-H teams who qualified to compete in the state land judging competition in late March in Live Oak, Florida.  Our local teams placed well at the state contest, congratulations to students and advisors!


Participation by 4-H teams increased statewide this year with four counties attending. The Manatee County Senior 4-H team placed 1st in the state (Holly Bergmann, Sydney Bliss, Rylee Skillman and Jake Pritchett).  Manatee County Intermediate 4-H teams placed 1st (Kallee Rhoades, Collin Nelson, Cole Arrant, and Cody Rhoades) and 2nd (Micah Foy, Clayton Reagan, and Caden Cone), respectively.  Amy and Tom Arrant coached the 4-H teams.  Holly Bergmann had the 2nd highest score in the state in the 4-H senior division, while Kallee Rhoades scored 1st in the state in the 4-H intermediate division.


In the FFA middle school division, the team from Buffalo Creek Middle School coached by Steven Harber placed first in the state (Lane Spivey, Kayden Kirby, Chase Piccone, and Kinley Harber) out of 15 teams.  Lane Spivey scored the second highest in the state in the FFA Middle School division. Parrish Community High School coached by Susan Grainger placed 5th (Marissa Souders, James Keen, John Keen, and Makayla Chenard) in the state out of 24 teams, in the FFA high school division.  Marissa Souders had the 13th highest score in the FFA high school division.

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Posted: April 27, 2023

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

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