FFA competition held at Fairgrounds

Sponsored by citrus growers in the area and three local agriculture teachers, FFA students from 12 different local High schools teams participated in a citrus judging competition at Porterville Fairgrounds on Saturday.

They hope to continue the citrus judging contest next year at Porterville College Agriculture Department, said organizer Cindy Brown, who explained the contest is about judging the quality of two types of oranges, lemons, grapefruit, mandarin oranges and citrus trees. The students also learn to identify diseases and damage of fruit, trees, and leaves and they need to defend their decisions with oral reasons and explanations.

Brown says Porterville is the hub of the citrus industry in the county, and the FFA students need to learn to recognize the quality and marketability of citrus. Sponsors of the contest included Geoff Galloway of Visalia Citrus and Nate Laus from Integral Agriculture Company. Both said the experience of FFA citrus judging helped them in their careers. 

Matt Watkins of Bee Sweet Citrus said, “FFA agriculture students are needed to become part of the local industry and citrus judging makes them aware of local employment opportunities. These FFA students are motivated and hardworking and they’ll keep the ag and citrus industries strong and moving forward into the future.”

Brayden Levya from Monache High School said he likes judging because it helps him develop his public speaking skills as well as helping him get over his fear of talking with strangers. Since the judging is timed, you also have to prepare your reasons quickly and defend them to “someone you don’t know.” 

This is a renewal of a Porterville tradition that’s been gone for over a decade and we’re glad to bring it back, said Bob Mailand, who taught agriculture at Porterville High School for over 38 years.

Brown said, “FFA students gain confidence in public speaking and presentation, they learn how to shake hands, and make eye contact, and how to defend their opinions after participating in judging, and it’s a great contest.”

Each student had 10 minutes to learn about the various types of fruit they were judging and had two minutes to present their findings to the judging panel.

This is an interesting contest and it gives these students a chance to see what the consumer is getting in their quality of fruit. They are learning to judge what people want, said Galloway.

Another sponsor, Neal Job, said he judged citrus at PHS and it definitely has helped in his career. He explained Bob Mailand taught all of the citrus growers and sponsors present and he is really a “citrus guru.”

Roger Drummond, father of Evan Drummond who was helping with contest organization, said citrus judging was a big part of his experience as a student in PHS FFA and he still uses what he learned when he teaches elementary school at Pleasant View Elementary School in Poplar. He said, “I’m happy to help new groups of kids get involved and learn and use what they learn in the citrus or agriculture industry.”

Pia Martinez, 16, from Woodlake FFA, has been involved citrus judging for three years. She enjoys FFA and has found her passion in agriculture. She feels like FFA is part of her family and says it has helped her become more outgoing and confident. She wants to go to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and would like to be an agricultural science teacher. “I’ve really enjoyed the citrus competition. It was a nice warm-up for the 2017 season.”

Liliana Serrato, Amara Alyhonaym and Jordyn Stockton, seniors from Monache High School, participated in a prior citrus judging at Exeter High School.

They agreed the citrus contest at Porterville Fairgrounds was well organized with no hold ups between the teams. It was well spaced and the students didn’t have to lose time walking to different areas. The competition was easier because all the tables were in one room and there were no difficulties in set up. 

All the girls have different career goals after high school. Alyhonaym wants to become a pediatrician, while Serrato would like to be a nurse. They have been in FFA for one year.

Stockton wants to become a pest control advisor in the citrus industry. She has been in FFA for three years and said judging and FFA helps with life skills.  

Students traveled from Bakersfield, El Diamante, O’Neals-Minarets, Exeter, Strathmore, Golden West in Visalia, Woodlake, and Monache, Granite Hills, Porterville, and Reedley high schools.

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