Over 1,300 high school students and 500 adults participated in agriculture-related competitions across the Merced College campus during Saturday’s 51st annual FFA Field Day.

The events range from livestock judging to small-engine mechanics and incorporate students from all over the state. While on the surface it’s a day of community, fun and good-natured competition, the impact it has on the students reaches far beyond a high school campus.

“Field Day is a career development event,” Merced College Director of Landscape and Farm Management Bryan Tassey said. “The students participate in a circuit of academic, hands-on training.”

Field Day itself combines both the scholastic aptitude and physical competition seen in debate teams or athletics, tying academic standards in with each event on campus. Contests are held on weekends statewide from mid-March to May, taking students as far north as Chico and down south to Pomona. The majority of events are team based. Teams of four are judged, with the top three scores tallied for placement. The top teams will advance to the State Finals at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, competing for a spot at Nationals in Indianapolis.

Tassey added that these competitions are preparing students for their futures in farming and engineering. The large almond crop that California is known for, Merced County’s dairy production and even the forthcoming developments in transportation across the Valley are all possible with the training these students are given in Agriculture programs. Students who participate in FFA at the high school level are constantly preparing for the transition into Agricultural Departments at the collegiate level.

“This is training that has direct ties to success in the long term,” Tassey said, “They prepare themselves for leadership positions in the job market, as the select student chairmen are responsible for making sure every participant is given the exact instructions, and fulfill each requirement of their designated events. It’s a major undertaking.”

-- Alessandria Pedretti