Jeralyn Wessel — Staff writer
A group of about thirty students from Dordt University’s agriculture department competed in the Professional Agriculture Student Organization of Iowa (PAS) State Conference in Ankeny from Feb. 7-9. After competing in a variety of events for both individuals and teams, all Dordt students qualified for the national competition in March.
The PAS competitions draw college students from across the state and country to make connections with like-minded individuals and future contacts in the industry. Students display their understanding of different parts of agriculture, as well as develop skills for their future careers at the academic events.
Students signed up for both team and individual events. Team events consisted of a few students taking a lengthy test and completing activities surrounding a certain type of agriculture. Topics included dairy, floriculture, equine, sheep, beef, and soil science. While some teams study for the tests, most rely on their previous knowledge, since questions can encompass a wide range of details in the particular industry.
Emma Zwart, a senior animal science major, was on a team in the beef specialist competition. In addition to the knowledge-based test, the group presented to judges about the possible dangers of foreign animal disease in America. The team was also required to complete a case study regarding styles of confinement in the beef industry.
Overall, Dordt was successful at the competition. Several teams placed first or second in their specializations, and all participants qualified for nationals in either team, individual, or both events. Not only do the events test book knowledge, but they also give students the opportunity to practice interacting with future clients and employers.
Abby Allen, a sophomore agri-business major, participated in the Agriculture Sales event and took third place. During the event, Allen persuaded judges acting as potential clients to buy a hypothetical agriculture product.
“I would like to do something with agriculture sales in my career, so [the event] helps me prepare for that and sell something,” Allen said.
Several events involved verbal demonstrations of knowledge, like giving speeches and being interviewed. Ariel Vander Woude, a junior animal science major, participated in a Livestock and Dairy Production mock interview and claimed sixth place. Vander Woude prepared a resume and cover letter before the competition and was scored on her documents and professionalism during the interview. She found the competition to be a good learning experience and a way to develop skills in the industry she wants to work in.
The PAS State Conference also allowed students to deepen relationships through the shared experience.
“I enjoyed getting to know my Dordt peers on a closer level, as well as seeing students who competed for the first time succeeding in their competitions and receiving recognition for their hard work,” Zwart said.
The national competition will include more schools from across the U.S. and will be hosted in Ankeny, Iowa, from March 15-18. Many of the state participants are looking forward to extending their knowledge and success at the bigger tournament.