Arkansas’ state champion 4-H forestry team has claimed its third national championship in four years. One of its members also earned the high point individual award.
The Arkansas team, all from Hermitage, was comprised of Braden Harrod, Gregory Hilliard, David McGhee and Madison McGhee, and were coached by Joe Don Greenwood.
Harrod also won the high point individual award.
The second-place individual was Ethan Coker from Louisiana and the third-place high individual was Logan Snipes from Alabama.
The Arkansas team was among 13 competing in the 40th annual National 4-H Forestry Invitational, held at West Virginia University’s Jackson’s Mill State 4-H Camp and Conference Center in Weston.
“It was quite a thrill,” Greenwood said. “I’ve been blessed with some good kids.”
Greenwood is no beginner as a coach – his first team to go to the nationals did so in 1993.
His winners will have something to show for their efforts as well. “I always get my teams championship rings,” he said.
The team’s next stop will be the FFA national competition, scheduled for late October in Indianapolis. Greenwood says that just because his team won the 4-H national competition, doesn’t make them a lock to win the FFA contest.
“We have to know trees from all over. They bring in limbs from the west coast. We have to ID Pacific Yew and all those firs and giant sequoias,” Greenwood said. “We’ll see some of those same trees at FFA. There are differences between the two contests (but) it sure helps to be at both places.”
Kyle Cunningham, extension forestry specialist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, watched the team win the state competition, which qualified them for the nationals.
“I am very proud of the Bradley County 4-H Forestry Team. They performed at a high level to win the State Championship and went on to turn in a tremendous performance against 13 other states to win the National 4-H Forestry Invitational,” Cunningham said. “I am so very proud of the team members for representing Arkansas at a national level.”
John Gavin, Bradley County extension staff chair for the Division of Agriculture, said the team members “steadily studied and worked and practiced and it paid off. The team won several smaller contests that prepared them to win at state and earn the privilege of competing at the national level.”
Gavin put the win into perspective: “There’s a new team every year. Once they win at national, they can’t compete again, so Bradley County keeps pumping them out.”
Greenwood’s secret is keeping lots of potential contestants trained – always having a team behind the current squad.
“We try to keep plenty trained, and when they get mature enough, they get honed in” on the next level of competition, he said.
“I don’t do long, heavy-duty practices,” Greenwood said. “I keep them short. I want to have quality rather than quantity.”
While at the Invitational, 4-H members competed for overall team and individual awards in several categories. Events included tree identification, tree measurement, compass and pacing, insect and disease identification, topographic map use, forest evaluation, the forestry bowl and a written forestry exam.
The event is sponsored by Farm Credit, Sustainable Forestry Initiative, Inc., West Virginia University Extension Service, American Forest Foundation, Society of American Foresters, Association of Natural Resource Extension Professionals, F & W Forestry, WestRock, USDA Forest Service State and Private Southern Region, Southern Regional Extension Forestry, National Woodland Owners Association and Black Diamond Resource Conservation and Development Council.
Arkansas previously won national titles in 2016 and 2017. The Arkansas team was fourth in 2018.
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