Agronomy Olympics links students, agribusiness

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- There is an athletic Olympics every four years, but an Agronomy Olympics is held every year at the South Dakota Ag Expo in Sioux Falls.

Students from Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown, S.D., participated in the South Dakota AgExpo Agronomy Olympics contest in Sioux Falls, S.D., on Jan. 19, 2017. From left, Zach Locy, MZB Technologies, Watertown, S.D. speaks with an Agronomy Olympics team Cydnee Davis, Wolsey, S.D.; Bailey Gaydo, Cherokee, Iowa; and Alison Brakke, Wolsey, S.D. Photo taken Jan. 19, 2017, in Sioux Falls, S.D. (Mikkel Pates, Agweek)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - There is an athletic Olympics every four years, but an Agronomy Olympics is held every year at the South Dakota Ag Expo in Sioux Falls.

The Ag Expo is staged by the South Dakota Agri-Business Association and the South Dakota Grain and Feed Association. The SDABA and the SDGFA arranged more than $4,400 in prizes and trophies for the Agronomy and Applicator Olympic Challenge at the annual meetings and trade show.

On the second day of the event, roughly 200 students attended the Agronomy Olympics event. Teams from the Mitchell (S.D.) Technical Institute and Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown, S.D., attended the trade show and interacted with exhibitors, answering a set of open-book questions on agronomy and products. They compete for top honors and a traveling trophy, which this year was awarded to two teams from LATI.

Who you know

The Agronomy Olympic phase is all about education, fun and networking, officials say. "As they graduate and start looking for work, we want to have them know who is looking for people. It gives us a great opportunity to interact," said Bjorn Nelson, a district salesman for Monsanto, representing Asgrow and DeKalb seed brands, and president of the SDABA.


Joey Hanson, owner of Diversified Agronomy of Elk Point, S.D., is one of the Ag Expo committee members and helps coordinate the Agronomy Olympics. Hanson helped with the agronomy and applicator side of the contest. "It's great, since getting the tech students involved in this we've really had a great response, not only from the students but vendors and exhibitors," he said.

Among this year's participants was Kevin Murphy, 19, from Onida, S.D., a freshman LATI ag business student, who aspires to be an agronomist in a cooperative. He said the agricultural economy is in a difficult period, but is confident in agriculture's future. "There's always a place for you" in agriculture, he said.

Always a place

Cydnee Davis, of Wolsey, S.D., also a student at LATI, is studying ranch management, ag business and swine production. She is a third-year LATI student who and has received an associate's degree in large animal technician work. She plans to return to work alongside her parents, who operate a smaller family farm.

Davis said she was pretty confident on many of the questions in the Agronomy Olympics. "A lot of them we've covered in our fertilizer class, but some I've never seen before," she said.

When considering the current state of the farm economy, she thinks it can only get better. "If you get through the hard times you can get through the good times. You can only push forward," she said. She'd like to expand the land base of the farm, if feasible, and eventually take over the operation - "keeping it going."

All of that is exactly the point for people like Nelson, who are hoping for farmers of today and of tomorrow be successful. "Those of us in agribusiness want to help farmers position themselves to be successful in a tough environment," Nelson said.

That's true for today's farmers and agribusiness professionals, and tomorrow's.


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