Conservation Awards Presented at Year End 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 2024!

Emma Hakes-Manatee County 4-H

Kevin Diaz-Braden River Middle School FFA

Cody Rhoades-Buffalo Creek Middle School FFA

Sophia Gagliano-Haile Middle School FFA

Hayden Neumann-Palmetto High School FFA

Kaycee Kirby-Parrish Community High School FFA

Caitlyn Cooke-Southeast High School FFA

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: Michael Ingram
Secretary/Treasurer: Julie Tillett
Supervisor: Callon C. ‘Buddy’ Keen, Jr.
Supervisor: Ben King

Annual Educational Events for Students

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 2024 topic was ‘May the Forest Be with You Always’. The winner qualifies for an area contest and the winner of the area contest is eligible to compete at the state contest.  Emma Hakes, a home-schooled middle school student won our local contest.  The area contest was not held due to there being no other competitors from other local contests. Hakes advanced to the Association of Florida Conservation Districts state contest in June, where she placed first among three contestants and was awarded $500.


winners of speech contest in a row
Manatee River SWCD Speech Contestants

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 held this year in Manatee County hosted by the MRSWCD. Parrish Community High School FFA, and junior, intermediate and senior 4-H teams placed first in their respective divisions at the state contest. The MRSWCD hosted the State Contest in Manatee County.  The land judging team from Parrish Community High School attended the national contest in Oklahoma. High School FFA,  Senior, Junior and Intermediate 4-H  teams were all state champions. Kaycee Kirby, Parrish Community High School FFA  was the highest scoring individual at the State Contest.  For more information about the state contest visit

To learn more about the National Land Judging Contest visit


4-H contestants at the State Land Judging Contest


Envirothon is an environmentally themed academic competition for high school aged students. The Manasota Regional Envirothon  held annually in February, is facilitated by the MRSWCD. Teams of five students take hands on exams in soils, wildlife, forestry, aquatics, and a current issue. In 2024, ‘Renewable Energy for a Sustainable Future” was the current issue. The winning team from each county is eligible to compete at the state contest. Our winning teams placed 4th (Super Cool Awesome Team-Suncoast Polytechnical HS)and 5th (The Evergreens-Manatee HS) at the state contest held in Apollo Beach.  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  

To learn more about the North American Envirothon visit


Super Cool Awesome Team -Suncoast Polytechnical High School-4th place at State Envirothon. The team also received recognition in the wildlife category.

Posted: June 12, 2024

Category: 4-H & Youth, Agriculture, , Conservation, Forests, Natural Resources, Water
Tags: Conservation, Soil And Water Conservation District

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