Conservation Awards Presented at Year End 4-H and FFA Banquets

Conservation Awards

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 2023!

Manatee County 4-H-Rylee Skillman

Braden River Middle School FFA-Carter Gamm

Buffalo Creek Middle School FFA-Lane Spivey

Haile Middle School FFA-Sophia Gagliano

Palmetto High School FFA-Hayden Neuman

Parrish Community High School FFA-Marissa Souders

Southeast High School FFA-Noah Baylor

Manatee River Soil and Water Conservation District

Volunteer, non-partisan, elected board members of the Manatee River Soil and Water Conservation District are:

Chairman: Paul Howard
Vice-Chair: vacant
Secretary/Treasurer: Julie Tillett
Supervisor: Callon C. ‘Buddy’ Keen, Jr.
Supervisor: Ben King

Annual Educational 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 National Association of Conservation Districts The 2022 topic was ‘One Water’-celebrating our watersheds. The winner qualifies for an area contest and the winner of the area contest is eligible to compete at the state contest.  Rylee Skillman, from Parrish Community High School won our contest and then placed 2nd at the state contest!

1st place speech contestant
First place speech contest winner Rylee Skillman is congratulated by Paul Howard, MRSWCD Chairman and Contest Coordinator Gail Somodi

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 regional competition is held in February in different locations throughout Manatee County. Selected teams then move on to the state competition. Buffalo Creek Middle School FFA, intermediate 4-H,  and senior 4-H teams placed first in their respective divisions at the state contest. The land judging team from Parrish Community High School attended the national contest in Oklahoma.  For more information about the state contest visit

Chief Judge Alec Hoffner reviews sites with students after the contest
4-H intermediate first place team.

Envirothon– Envirothon is an environmentally themed academic competition for high school aged students. The Manasota 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 2023 ‘Adapting to a Changing Climate’ 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

Team of students taking Soils Exam at Envirothon.
Team of students taking Soils Exam at Envirothon.





Posted: June 20, 2023

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

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