MONTVALE — Lord Botetourt High School junior Reagan Hall said oak trees are easy to spot in any season — just look for the acorns.
But most trees can be especially hard to identify when their leaves fall, she said. That’s why her agriculture teacher, Stuart Byrd, taught her to focus on the bark.
Hall, the president of Lord Botetourt’s FFA club, tested her forestry skills Thursday in an area competition hosted by the Virginia Department of Forestry at Montvale Park. Forty-eight FFA students from Pittsylvania, Henry, Botetourt, Bedford and Floyd counties competed after advancing from a local contest.
Along with tree identification, students had to calculate tree volume, correctly identify equipment and read compasses. Representatives with the forestry department and the students’ FFA advisers conducted each stage of the competition.
Forest technician David Tompkins said the competition gave students a glimpse of the skills and tools foresters use on a daily basis. The larger goal of the forestry department is to teach a young generation about the importance of natural resource management, Tompkins said.
Byrd, who has taught at Lord Botetourt High for 25 years, said several of his students have sought a career in the forestry industry instead of farming. Some became woodcutters, others raise trees, Byrd said.
Floyd County High School agriculture teacher Jameson Cockram credited the competition for motivating students to learn more about land outside of farming.
Floyd County eighth grader Lane Flinchum raises Texas longhorns. After using a tape measure to determine a tree’s volume, Flinchum said his favorite part of the competition was the learning experience.
The winners of the area competition were chosen based on top scores in each stage. In the junior category, Ian Betton of Magna Vista High in Henry County won the individual first place. Magna Vista won first place as a team.
In the senior category, Jack Hammock of Pittsylvania County’s Gretna High won the individual first place. Gretna High School was the first place team.
All first place winners advance to a state competition in the spring.