The weather was not the best to be outdoors last Thursday, but to the students who came to the University of Kentucky Wood Utilization Center in Quicksand for their annual “Win With Wood” day, none of that mattered at all.
What counted were the skills, the experiences and the career opportunities available in the wood and forestry industry – which makes up a pretty good chunk of Eastern Kentucky.
The fact that every student who came got an award, and for Donald Burdine of McCreary Central High School in Whitley City, that made the dreary day a lot more decent.
“These ribbons were for Land Judging, Tree ID, Wood ID, and Forestry Tools,” said Burdine, who's a senior at McCreary Central. “It all came out to six ribbons I was able to win today. Five white ribbons and one red ribbon in the competition.”
His buddies at McCreary Central had some competition, thanks to students from Breathitt High School and their FFA (Future Farmers of America) chapter, as well as a group from Riverside Christian School. In addition, Lee County High School and Middle School made the trip down Route 52 to Quicksand, as did Knott County and the always-competitive group from the Carter County 4-H.
“We had nine students here today who came down from Grayson, Olive Hill and throughout our county,” said Rebecca Konopka, who's the 4-H Agent for Carter County. Her group of wood students were taking shelter under a tent, just a few feet away from where the awards were given out that afternoon. “We know that we have a Second Place winner, and a Third Place winner in the Junior competition, as of this moment.”
The event was held at the Wood Center, located at the University of Kentucky's Robinson Center for Appalachian Resource Sustainability in Quicksand. And by bringing Rebecca's students and the other students together with forest and wood industry owners, business people, Extension service agents and leaders, and specialists from UK, the all-day seminar and competition tested the students' skills and knowledge. It also gave agents and professionals a chance to work with state-of-the art training methods in the wood and forestry technology industry.
Eight individual events were made available for the students on their knowledge of wood and forestry – Forestry Equipment/Tool Identification, Soil and Land Judging, Tree Measurement, Woodworking Tool Identification, Compass and Pacing, Invasive Plant Identification, Tree Identification, and Wood Identification.
After the morning's competition were over, and after lunch was served, the awards and ribbons were passed out. As was the case last year, the Carter County 4-H group were the big winners.
“I got eight awards. One blue, five red and two white,” said Bryan Middleton, who's a 7th Grader at West Carter Middle School. “I liked the soil judging, because I hadn't done it before, and the fact I thought it was kind of neat. What I'd like to be is to work in the wood and tree business when I get older, so it was neat to be here today to see how wood works.”
For Destiney MacLean, she was proudly showing off a big wooden medal – just shy of winning the big award. “It's for Second Place in the Junior Division, and I also won seven blue ribbons and one white ribbon. To get first place, you need to win all blue medals, and I just missed it by one.” Destiney, who's a home-schooled 7th Grader, enjoyed the woodworking tools and wood identification part of the day, but wasn't exactly crazy about getting up so early for the trip. “I got up at 6 a.m., and I got my brother John up at 6.”
“I woke up at 4 a.m.,” replied her brother John MacLean, a home-schooled 4th Grader, who won a total of eight ribbons during the day – one blue, four white and three red.
The Carter County team told the Times-Voice they enjoyed being tested by the competition, but some who entered were already familiar with the ways of the woods. “I like the forestry tools competition,” noted 11-year-old Kyle Deboard, who goes to West Carter Middle School. “I'm used to them, and you know how they work because I help my dad and mom on our farm back home.”
“It makes me appreciate wood and forestry,” added Destiney. “But I really want to be a horseback rider. That way I can ride through the forest.”
As for the overall winners in the Senior Division, those big awards went to Josh Combs of Knott County Central's FFA, along with Celsey Fannin and Jacob Gilliam of Carter County's FFA.
Still, everyone who came got a ribbon. And for the Carter County FFA bunch, they all got a little treat, according to 4-H Agent Konopka. “We have a two-hour drive back to Olive Hill and Grayson. And we have to stop, just have to stop on the way back for some ice cream. It's a tradition with our 4-H'ers.”