FRESNO, Calif. — For Kaitlyn McFarland, the agriscience fair at the annual California FFA conference didn’t really feel like a competition.
“You’re more developing skills related to the scientific process and properly writing a research paper,” said McFarland, an Exeter, Calif., student whose project was to test organic antiseptics on livestock bacteria.
Her classmates, Mia McCormick and Kaylee Raubaugh, studied pH measurement in egg wash for small farms. McCormick said her effort will be useful on her family’s farm.
“We want to make sure we’re washing the eggs safely,” she said.
But while the students were just trying to hone their skills, they proved adept at competing, too. They and their teammates from Exeter FFA took the top cooperative award as well as several individual honors.
More than 100 students enter projects in the science contests each year, competing at several skill levels in categories for animal science, environmental sciences, food products and processing systems, plant systems, power, structural and technical systems, and social systems.
The students presented their work to panels of judges and answered questions. Entries were judged on April 23, and other attendees were allowed to browse through the rows of project displays on April 24 before several dozen plaques and ribbons were handed out later that afternoon.
FFA member Preslie Hewitt, a sophomore from East Nicolaus, Calif., looked through the displays and jotted down notes to report to her adviser what she’s learned.
“It’s hard work I’ll bet,” Hewitt said of the projects. “It’s very cool to see what the other chapters and schools have to offer.”
Topics covered in the displays read like scholarly journal articles. Among the entries, students tested the effect of solar panel cellular waste on plant growth, compared erosion control methods, measured residual saline from drip irrigation systems and studied the British thermal units generated from eucalyptus burning.
Past projects by students have included how well different feed additives worked on hogs and genetic research on different varieties of animals, said Josiah Mayfield, the assistant state FFA adviser.
“We’re fairly competitive at the national level,” Mayfield said. “All of these state winners have a chance to submit (their projects) for the national competition.”
As science and technology are seen as key fields in guiding the future of agriculture, many chapters encourage their members to do projects, Mayfield said.
“It’s definitely an area that we have teachers who focus on, and they’re pretty competitive in it,” he said.