Ag team heads to state
Students in Tonganoxie High School's agricultural science class are headed for state.
The students, who competed against 11 other schools at regionals, will vie in the dairy products division at the April state competition held at Kansas State University.
Tonganoxie's A-team took third place as a team at regionals. This included top scorers, Greg Frye, who placed second-highest in individual; Megan Lawrence, who placed ninth-highest in individual, Charlie Jones and Chester Henre. Also participating were Karl Cleavinger and Josh Olsen.
Russell Plashka, THS agriculture instructor, said this is the sixth consecutive year that his students have qualified for state.
The competition, he said, tests students' skills and knowledge of the dairy industry as a whole, or from the cows in the barnyard through the home use of purchased milk.
Students in the competition must know how to identify, by tasting, off-flavors of milk. For instance, if a cow has been eating garlic, the milk may have a faint garlic flavor. They identify different cheeses. They demonstrate how to test the milk for mastitis. They identify real and artificial dairy products by taste and sight. The students also take written tests that cover the marketing, science and history of milk production, as well as problem solving.
Plashka's freshmen students placed second as a team, but the freshmen do no go on to compete at state. Freshmen included Linsey Jansen, who took second high in individual, Chad DeGraeves, who placed fourth high in individual and Raymond Sproul, who placed seventh high in individual. Other freshmen who participated were Travis Starcher, Sarah Holliday and Deseree Reike.
Not all the students in the agricultural classes have grown up on a farm.
Grey Frye is one.
"I have no farm background whatsoever," Frye said.
He explained that he's benefited from the class by learning leadership skills and by having to take responsibility. As far as learning about the dairy industry, Frye said he's learned more about what's on the grocery shelf.
"I was surprised to find out how many people buy low-fat milk products when there really isn't that much fat in milk to begin with," he said.
Josh Olsen, another member of the class, said his grandfather farms, and Josh has been involved in agriculture for as long as he can remember.
"I've shown beef at the county fair," Olsen said. "Basically, all of my life I've been around some type of agricultural experience."
Practical knowledge he's learned in the class includes knowing how to recognize off-flavors of milk.
Megan Lawrence, who lives on a farm near McLouth, has a lot of agricultural experience. The farm livestock includes cattle, sheep and chickens. Row crops are also a part of the business.
Lawrence, who raises and shows sheep, said she's learned in class the importance of stocking the best in any herd of animals, including the sheep flock.
Carl Cleavinger is another student with an agricultural background. He lives on a farm west of Jarbalo.
He plans to enter the regional competitions for meats and livestock later this semester. In this competition, students' knowledge is tested through a process in which they judge animals.
"You're looking at live animals," Cleavinger said. "There are nine sets of animals and the judges tell you to pick the top three sets. Then you have to tell why you picked them."