Kansas' 4-H horticulture judging team earned first place in the 2007 National 4-H Horticulture Judging Contest held in Fort Wayne, Ind., Oct. 5-8.
The top 4-H team, from Harvey County, Kan., included three members of the Schurter family – brothers Sam and Isaac and their sister, Anna – and Ben Gatz, said Scott Eckert, Kansas State University Research and Extension horticulture agent and team coach.
To be eligible for the national competition, the Harvey County team had to first win the state competition, said Eckert. He praised the Kansas team for continuing to study and practice prior to the competition while also raising money to supplement the team's $400 award toward travel expenses.
Competing at the national level required learning about plants that are not native to Kansas, said longtime K-State Research and Extension horticulture specialist, Chuck Marr. Marr provided leadership for the state's 4-H horticulture project and judging contest prior to his retirement in 2006.
He said that Kansas' teams began competing in the national event in 1971 and that this year's top finish is one of only two first place awards in the national contest for Kansas 4-H members. Previous 4-H state horticulture judging contest winners claimed the top award in 1975.
At this year's national competition, Sam, who is a high school senior, also earned first place awards (a plaque and a check for $100) as the high-scoring individual in the 4-H competition and overall competition, which includes 4-H, FFA, and National Junior Horticulture Association members.
Isaac, a high school freshman, earned third place in the individual competition, and Anna, a sophomore in college, fifth place, Eckert said.
Sam, Isaac and Ben have been competing in horticulture judging as a team for about four years. Anna, who also has been enrolled in the 4-H horticulture project, joined the team earlier this year.
Sam and Isaac, who are home-schooled, are members of the East Lakers 4-H Club, as is Anna. Ben is a member of the Lucky 13 4-H Club. Both of the clubs are in Harvey County.
Having three team members in the same family simplifies arranging field trips and practice sessions, said Sam, who credited preparation for the 4-H horticulture judging contests with helping him appreciate the diversity in the environment.