FFA students prep for state finals at Exeter High citrus judging contest
More than 140 Future Farmers of America (FFA) students from 19 different schools competed in the Exeter/ Golden West sponsored citrus judging contest at Exeter Union High School Ag Farm on Saturday, January 12.
The citrus judging contests are valley-wide and open to anyone in the state, said Dan Crookham, EUSH ag instructor. Nine judges from the citrus industry oversaw the contests and set up the classes of fruit for quality and identification of pests and diseases.
FFA students traveled from as far as Pioneer Valley High School in Santa Maria, O’neals Minarets, Orosi, Corcoran, North High Bakersfield, Lemoore, Hanford, Central Valley Christian, El Diamante, Golden West, and Mt. Whitney in Visalia, Tulare, Woodlake, Farmersville, Lindsay, Strathmore, Monache, Porterville, to the EUSH Ag Farm.
Crookham, EUSH ag staff and FFA students thanked judges David Atkinson, Cody Baker, Tyler Baker, Zack Borges, Laura Gordon, Tom Pinkham, A.J. Reed, Jon Stearns, and Lyle Ward. They are local citrus growers, independent fruit sprayers, or have packing houses.
They also thanked Chris Benevides from Porterville Citrus, Roger Smith of Tree Source Nursery, Greg Haury of Haury Farms, and Charles Duby of Sequoia Oranges for all their generosity and support donating quality fruit and trees to the contest.
Students judged the quality of grapefruit, Mandarin oranges, lemons, grapefruit, and citrus trees.
They also learn to identify diseases and damage on fruit, trees, and leaves and they need to defend their decisions with oral reasons and explanations.
Twenty EUHS ag students worked as group leaders, monitoring the FFA student teams during the judging competition.
“It takes a lot of people to organize and make this contest happen,” said Crookham. Kevy Mendes, another instructor, said they alternate from year to year hosting the contest
with Golden West High in Visalia.
EUHS sophomore Haylie Chavira said the FFA is great because she gets to meet other people and travel a lot. She feels the citrus judging is interesting, but the speaking competitions are challenging.
Exeter FFA won third place in the national marketing plan for Central Coast Meats in Indianapolis, Indiana, in October 2018 for online meat sales, said Chavira and other students.
“It’s good for the future generations of agriculturists to get judging experience,” said Percy Roberts, EUSH senior and Chapter officer who
grew up on a farm where they grew mostly citrus, cherries, avocados, pistachios, and hay. He says GMOS are the way of the future, because the industry is trying to make HLB (Huanglongbing) resistant citrus.
Libbie Jameson, of Golden West in Visalia senior, has been citrus judging for four years and has been to the state finals. She says the competition is really hard, so they need to step it up this year. She likes to judge oranges, and says she’s grateful to the Exeter Ag department for sponsoring the competition, adding it helps students get ready for the state finals.
Megan Clarke, a freshman from Lemoore, says the citrus judging is stressful but fun because it’s based on opinion, and there are a lot of ways to judge the fruit.
Zack Borges, one of the judges, complemented all the FFA students on their orange judging and said they did a fantastic job and should be very proud of themselves in his remarks about the competition.
Freya Dupee from North High Bakersfield said it was her first year judging citrus and it seemed hard at first, but now knows how to pick, finding what’s perfect, which fruit has
blemishes, and what has a disease.
“I’ve learned so much in a short amount of time,” she said.
Senior chapter FFA reporter Jerry Angeles from Porterville High thought the citrus judging was easy, but said the judges threw in some blemishes on the fruit that were difficult to identify. He enjoys the judging and says it helps you learn about the real world and what goes on.
Edith Guijon, President of Woodlake High FFA, won three competitions and said she would like to be an agricultural teacher.
“It’s a great experience,
and my advisors have pushed me to be the best I can,” she said. “They’ve given me the opportunity to learn while coaching the other students, and those two things are what I love the most.”
“The competition was really competitive today, and I had a lot of fun seeing so many people here,” said Hannah Willis, an Exeter sophomore, “Thank you to my coach Dan Crookham. Judging citrus is a lot of fun.”
Two more competitions take place in Tulare and Hanford this month before the state finals on February 2 at Fresno State.
FFA students put their judging skills to the test at the Citrus Career Development Saturday, Jan. 12 at Exeter High School. Over 140 FFA members from 20 different schools throughout the Valley participated.