NORFOLK, NE - Northeast Community College’s crops judging team proved its prowess in plant knowledge at two recent regional competitions conducted in and Oklahoma and Kansas.
Northeast claimed the second-place sweepstakes plaque at the Kansas State University (KSU) contest in Manhattan and the third-place sweepstakes title at an event hosted by Oklahoma Panhandle State University in Goodwell.
Both wins came in the two-year college division.
The Panhandle contest drew more than 100 students from 10 two-year colleges and universities, with 77 students representing 13 two-year colleges and universities competing at Kansas State.
Justin Timmerman, an agribusiness/agronomy major from Norfolk, posted the highest individual point total for the team at Kansas State. In the two-year college division, he finished fifth overall at KSU and 14th at the Panhandle contest.
Ellie Bermel, an agricultural transfer major from Randolph, was first in the agronomic test at Kansas State. She ranked seventh overall at KSU and ninth at the Panhandle contest.
Team coach Bernie Thyen, in his 18th year as an agronomy instructor at Northeast, said Timmerman and Bermel especially “worked hard” in contest preparation.
Timmerman scored as many points as 30 of the 47 four-year students at the KSU contest. “That’s impressive,” Thyen said.
Timmerman also jumped more than 70 points from the Panhandle contest to the KSU competition, while Bermel increased her score by 50 points in the two contests.
In addition to Timmerman and Bermel, the other team members are fellow sophomores Aiden Kleinschmidt and Travis Gillilan, both of Wausa.
Timmerman said he learned about crops judging from a former team member. He said crops judging is “more hands on and practical than what is learned in class.”
Thyen said regional competitions are conducted through the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA), serving as “practice runs for the ‘big one.’”
This year’s “big one,” the NACTA judging competition, will be hosted in Norfolk by Northeast Community College April 19-21. Over 600 students from more than 45 colleges and universities are expected to compete.
Crops judging will be among the 13 contest areas that also include livestock, equine, dairy and soils judging, as well an agricultural knowledge bowl.
In crops judging, the college and university contestants vie individually, side by side, during the four-hour competition. An hour is devoted to each of the sections: math practical, laboratory practical, agronomic exam, and plant and seed identification.
The plant and seed identification portion requires identification of 75 crop and weed plants and seeds with more than 150 possible species on the exam.
Timmerman said the Northeast crops judging team began studying in earnest for the regional meets in January, adding that he spends about three-to-four nights a week in the college greenhouse studying the characteristics of more than 150 plants and their seeds.
Timmerman described crops judging as “awesome, fun and kind of stressful until you get done (with the contest).”
The various aspects of crops judging will prove beneficial in his career as an agronomist following graduation in May. He is already working as a custom chemical applicator at Helena Chemical in Norfolk.
Justin Timmerman, of Norfolk, a sophomore agronomy major at Northeast Community College, studies the various parts of a cotton plant growing in the college's greenhouse. Timmerman and fellow members of the College’s crops judging team performed well at recent competitions in Oklahoma and Kansas.