Porterville College and the Don Laux Memorial sponsored the annual Citrus Judging Contest at Porterville Fair Grounds on Saturday which took off with 27 teams of Future Farmers of America students from high schools from around the Central Valley and elsewhere.
Students traveled from as far away as Santa Maria and Atwater, and from the Central Valley high schools Corcoran, Pioneer Valley in Santa Maria, Frontier in Bakersfield, Lemoore, and Laton, and as near as Woodlake, Lindsay, Exeter, Monache, El Diamante, Valley Christian, Mt. Whitney and Golden West.
Matt Watkins of Bee Sweet Citrus who volunteered at the contest, said, “We need to see the involvement of youth learning about agriculture. And while many of the kids are still on their winter break, the FFA kids are continuing to study and learn about agriculture, and citrus judging.”
Brandon Santry, a group leader, took the FFA students from table to table. He said, “I’m in ag sales, and I did cotton judging in high school at Monache. It’s good that there is citrus judging locally, and the turnout from the local schools is well represented. Also, all the schools coming to the contest from out of town, shows a real interest in agriculture in the younger generation, and in the citrus industry. Also the different volunteers who help organize and run the show makes the contest really stand out.”
Retired Ag teacher, Bob Mailand, of Citrus King, helped oversee the show along with Cindy Brown. Mailand said his daughter, Amy Mailand, who was an FFA citrus judging State Champion at PHS, and graduated in 1989, told him she learned how to manage her time learning how to give citrus ‘reads’ to the judges. She’s now a neonatal nurse practitioner and highly values the time management lessons well learned, Mailand said.
Megan White of Porterville, said she has always been involved in FFA since she graduated in 2016. She said, “FFA prepares them for the future if they choose to pursue ag as a career. All of the FFA programs help prepare students for the future, whether it’s citrus judging, livestock judging or public speaking. When I was in high school I did farm power machinery and I learned how to drive and operate farm equipment. I also did livestock judging and won first place in our region for impromptu public speaking.
“I now work at a Dairy called T-Bar Dairy, that has been around for generations. My boss was my Ag professor.”
Hector Guerra, is an FFA ag mechanics and horticulture teacher at a Pioneer Valley High School in Santa Maria.
Guerra said, “I like to get the kids out of town to see the country and everything outside of our area.
“The more we get them out the more culture they absorb and grasp. And along the way they are studying and preparing for future industries and business careers.
“I was an FFA student when Cindy Brown was teaching and we competed against her every year in one way or another. She’s been involved forever and is highly respected throughout the nation.
“They put on a good contest and are very welcoming. And this contest helps prepare the students for the state finals held at Fresno State in February.”
Citrus grower Gregg Galloway’s grandson Brogan Galloway, 11, and great-nephew Preston Galloway, 10, were helping at the citrus contest.
Speaking about his experience at the citrus judging, Brogan said, “The contest is being well run, and the students are so polite. I think it is the most interesting thing about this is how they have oranges and lemons, and how they are set on the tables. And the students are able to look at the citrus fruit and figure out how to judge them.
“This is my first time helping at the Porterville Fair, especially since my grandparents Gregg and Linda Galloway have always been involved. I’m with my cousin Preston Galloway, and he always has my back.”
Preston Galloway, 10, and family are from Reedley. Preston said, “We’ve been running the cards the students are filling out, putting them in order, and taking them to the livestock office. It’s a big, big help, and it’s exciting. This is also my first time at a citrus judging contest.”
Erica Longoria is the president of Porterville College Aggies Club and said it was the first time she’d ever been to a citrus judging contest, “This is very interesting to see how the students do the judging. And I like how they have to observe every little aspect of the various crops and judge lemons, oranges, grapefruit, mandarins, citrus trees and give all their reasons to the judges.”
Student Simarjot Gandhoke, from Atwater FFA, said it was his first time at a citrus judging contest, but said he had judged cotton and is a state champion. He has also done Parliamentary procedure for the FFA where he was in mock meetings, which are similar to the mock trials, and said, “We got fifth in state for that.
“The most challenging thing today was distinguishing between the good and bad traits of the citrus. And the navel oranges stood out in their quality. But my favorite part was explaining my reasoning, and the ups and lows of the citrus, due to USDA standards.”
From El Diamante High School in Visalia, Emily Montes, a senior, said it was her third citrus judging contest. “It’s a great opportunity to expand my knowledge of citrus and overall competition as well. The reasons are the toughest part, but confidence is what gets you through the competition.”
Jose Avina, speaking for the Monache high team, said he’s done citrus judging for the past three years. “This competition is always a great insight into the citrus industry. And it helps prepare us for our state finals competition.
The contest is very well run and organized, and it will help us break through the barrier entering the citrus judging season. And we look forward to the citrus judging every year.”
Brown and other volunteers organized the whole FFA citrus judging contest at the Porterville Fairgrounds and Monache parent boosters and high school advisors put together the tri-tip luncheon for the FFA students and volunteers.
Results for the contest were: A Team: Overall High Teams- 1st place- Pioneer Valley- Santa Maria:Team members: Marina Cuervos, Moises Novoa, PaolaZarate and Veronica Ramirez. 2nd Place-Monache-Porterville- Team members: Brianna Martinez, Chloye Kiner, Jenna Keller and Jose Aviria.,. 3rd Place-Hanford- Team members: Curtis Lefler, Jayden Bracy, Mackenzie Eckles and Walker Barajas. 4th Place – Golden West Visalia- Team members: Chris Court, Jacob Patton and Sydney Noell. 5th Place-Frontier- Bakersfield- Team members: Donovan Marcias, John Montellano and Lexi Diniz. B Team Results: Overall High Teams- 1st place-Monache Blue- Team members: Beth Leal, Kadin Wheeless, Matthew Culwell and Princesa Ceballos. 2nd place-Hanford-Team members: Declan Swigart, Jenna Bracy, Joshua Borba and Serenity Brown. 3rd Place -Frontier Bakersfield- Team members: Kristen Leach, Mallory Sutherland and Porche Clark. 4th Place -Madera Liberty- Team members: Alyssa Roma , Kendall Geist and Sierra Gonzalez. 5th Place- Golden West Visalia- Team members: Elizabeth Skidmore, Maria Rivas, Nick Simon and Sawyer Pratt.
Pioneer Valley – Santa Maria won the Perpetual Trophy for A Teams while Monache Porterville won the Perpetual Trophy for B Teams. Both trophies were donated by Bob Mailand ,with the Porterville College Don Laux Memorial FFA Citrus Judging Contest being sponsored by Gary Laux, a Porterville Citrus grower, whose family has grown citrus in the community for generations.