Studying Oklahoma Dirt: The National Land and Range Judging Competition

CANADIAN COUNTY, OKLAHOMA -- They gathered on what might have seemed a boring piece of ground to the uneducated.

More than 700 high school students from 33 states including 10 different teams from Oklahoma came here to look at the stuff that grows and, as soil judge Greg Scott puts it, the stuff it grows in.

"The students will come out here and look at this site and they'll judge the slope, depth of the topsoil. They'll look at the texture," he says, "and they'll have to come up with a recommendation for how to use that land in a way that will conserve it."

This is a unique contest for the FFA and 4-H kids like Randi Bray from Wetumka.

She didn't raise a calf or pig to judge.

She studies soils and subsoil, slope, crop suitability, or whether you could safely put a house on it.

A team from the Thomas, Oklahoma area told me the slopes were trickiest on this piece of land.

"You could miss them if you weren't really paying attention," said Chisholm Clever.

Randi's predictions about her score varied hot and cold.

"Either really good or really bad," she smiled nervously. "There's no in between."

Organizers and a couple hundred volunteers put on three different contests out here.

In Range Judging competitors had to identify plants and habitat.

The next hill over students has to evaluate the soil.

Conservationist Don Bartolina has been watching this process for the better part of 60 years.

"I started in 1961," he recalled. "It's fun or I wouldn't be doing it,"

Competing teams spend several days on the first week of May digging in Oklahoma soil.

Some even take home a jar of it as souvenirs, or as study material for the next time they all meet here to 'play dirty'

For more information on the annual National Land and Range Judging contest go to http://www.okconservation.org