ASU-Beebe prepares for 57th annual Ag Day

Originally Published February 24, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated February 22, 2013 at 10:25 a.m.
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Arkansas State University-Beebe’s department of agriculture professor Chuck Wisdom speaks to a group of Arkansas high school students before the university’s annual Agriculture Practice Judging Day last year. The school has sponsored the event for 57 years.

— Fair warning to Arkansas State University-Beebe students: Things could get a bit crowded on Wednesday.

More than 1,300 students from 53 high schools across the state are scheduled to descend on the campus for the university’s 57th annual Agriculture Practice Judging Day. The event is one of several held in the state throughout the year that prepare FFA members for district and state competition.

On Wednesday, students will have a chance to participate in career-development events, including poultry, land, agronomy, livestock, horse, farm business management, dairy foods, electricity, floral culture and mechanics contests.

“We provide the students with a Scantron sheet, and they’ll head to the different contests,” said Chuck Wisdom, assistant professor of agriculture at ASU-Beebe. “In the poultry contest, for example, they might candle eggs and judge them, and judge processed patty parts. For land, we’ll dig holes, and they’ll look at the soil and judge whether that soil would be a good building site or whether it’s good for agriculture. A lot of identification will have to be done.”

The ASU-Beebe practice is one of nine that the FFA students from Beebe High School will attend before the district competition this year. The practices help Beebe High School FFA adviser and ag instructor Troy Weatherley determine which students will compete at the district competition.

The competitions, he said, have a big impact on students who choose to participate.

“The leadership skills they get through these contests will benefit them in any occupation and atmosphere,” Weatherley said. “Obviously, we train and we use agriculture as a medium for doing this leadership training, but the work ethic and principles they learn can be transferred to anything.”

Wisdom said he sees a difference between students who enter the ASU-Beebe ag program after having participated in FFA and those who didn’t.

“One of the biggest things that I see is their confidence level,” Wisdom said. “They come into college, they already have a background knowledge of agriculture, and it makes them want to participate more.”

Wisdom remembers participating in ASU-Beebe’s Ag Day in the mid-’80s, and the event made him want to come back to the campus as a student after he graduated from high school.

“I participated, and it made me want to go to college

because I was seeing all of the college kids putting on the contest and having a good time, and I wanted to be a part of that,” Wisdom said.

The event still functions as a recruiting event for ASU-Beebe’s agriculture department, allowing the high school students to get a feel for the campus.

The practice day is an invitation-only event, with high schools being invited if their FFA sponsor was an ASU-Beebe grad or if the high school has been sending a good number of their graduates to the school.

“I went through the program at ASU-Beebe, and so did the ag teacher before me,” Weatherley said. “Beebe has been going to this practice day for at least 17 years, probably more.”

It’s always a busy day, but Wisdom knows the planning is all worth it.

“These kids are learning life skills at a very high level,” Wisdom said. “Whether they’re going to go to college or jump right into work, there’s so much learning that can happen through these FFA programs that is beneficial.”

Staff writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at (501) 399-3688 or

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