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WVU 4-H'ers place at national land judging competition, continuing programs success

West Virginia 4-H teams at the 20224 National Land Judging Competition
West Virginia University Extension 4-H teams' legacy continues by placing in the national land judging and homesite evaluation competitions. Out of the hundreds of youths from 39 states that competed, three teams of 4-H'ers from Barbour, Jefferson and Clay counties traveled to Oklahoma for the National Land Judging and Homesite Evaluation Contest, and all three teams placed.  

Land judging and homesite evaluation programs educate youth about soil properties and are used when constructing buildings or homes and for agriculture practices. 

These teams practiced for almost a year before traveling to Oklahoma five days prior to the competition to practice and get acclimated to Oklahoma soil and topography, which is different than West Virginia in relation to soil.  

The Barbour County 4-H team, which included Griffin Hart, Hunter Townsend, Hailey Finley and Hannah Nutter, placed first in both the land judging and homesite evaluation competitions. The team was coached by Jody Carpenter, an alum of Barbour County 4-H with a first place land judging title of his own. Hart earned first place for individual score in land judging and ninth place in homesite evaluation. Townsend placed first in homesite evaluation and second individual in land judging. Finley placed eighth individual in homesite evaluation. 

"It was amazing to see my team figure out how to work together and mesh to achieve a common goal,” Jody Carpenter, WVU Extension agent in Barbour County and Barbour County 4-H coach, said. “Besides learning about soil science skills and logical reasoning, these 4-H'ers can see that they can achieve anything if they practice and invest time into it. Personal growth is so much more important than winning. I tell my team that if they work hard enough at being the best version of themselves, success will follow.” 

Barbour County team member Hunter Townsend explained that he learned the importance of soil conservation and working as a team.  

Griffin Hart shared that he had a great experience at the national competition. 

“I met a lot of new people, saw things that I would not have seen if I did not go with my team and made new friends with other West Virginia team members,” Hart said. “I learned to soak in all the information you can get and to stay focused. I can also walk away continuing a family tradition because both my aunt and uncle were top individuals with their teams.” 

Hannah Nutter, another Barbour County team member, explained that she learned the importance of how land judging contributes to building a house, raising animals and planting crops. 

“I learned to believe in myself more and to be more confident,” Nutter said. 

To have West Virginia teams place at the national competition year after year, it is a testament to the programs we have in the state and the dedication we have for youth development, explained Carpenter.  

“This experience can benefit 4’H’ers later in life because it can open so many doors for youth participants,” Carpenter said. “The real value is in the months of practice, where they learn soil science, time management, teamwork, logical reasoning and much more. This can also be a gateway into a college field and even a career.” 

Hailey Owens, Hannah Hott, Katherine Taylor and Russ Stone for Jefferson County placed third as a team for land judging. The team was coached by Emily Morrow, who placed at the national level when she was in the program. 

“What I appreciated most about my team was not their placing, but how they were dedicated to learning the skills of the competition,” Emily Morrow, WVU Extension agent in Jefferson County and Jefferson County 4-H coach, said. “They put in the hours studying independently and they never complained about the long practice days, they spent most of the week asking technical questions about agriculture, showing how much all four of them cared about what they were learning. While this is a competition, it teaches the principles of soil health and conservation and I want them to understand how to be better stewards of the land.” 

Hailey Owens earned third place as an individual for land judging.  

“My experience at the competition was amazing, I had support from an amazing team and coach which helped me to excel like I did,” Owens said. “The biggest thing the national competition taught me was independence and time management. When you are in the contest, it is you as an individual using all the knowledge you have learned. Once they start the timer, you have twenty minutes to get everything done. They do not walk you through step by step, it is up to you. It is truly a test of your own individual skill.”  

Placing in this competition puts West Virginia and WVU Extension on a national stage, both literally and figuratively, explained Morrow.  

“I believe placing at this competition helps to highlight the work WVU Extension is doing in our communities, that we place such an emphasis on providing these opportunities to our youth,” Morrow said. “When West Virginia shines on a national level in a competition, the entire state shines. That is one thing that is so great about West Virginia is our sense of pride in our state and communities. This is just one example of how WVU Extension can make a difference in creating the next generation of agriculturalists and conservationists.” 

Despite being a three-person team, the Clay County 4-H team, which included Lydia Shamblin, Savannah Rhodes and Patrick Boggs, placed fifth in land judging and second in homesite evaluation. The team was coached by Michael Shamblin, an alumnus of the program with a placing of his own at the national competition. Lydia Shamblin earned fifth place for individual score in homesite evaluation and tenth place in land judging. Rhodes placed eighth in individual land judging. Boggs placed tenth in individual in homesite evaluation. 

“West Virginia dominated at this year’s national event,” Michael Shamblin, WVU Extension agent in Clay County and Clay County 4-H coach, said. “Our education efforts in soil conservation are some of the best in the country, but what is more important than my team’s placing is our team made memories, friendships and connections with other 4-H'ers and conservation professionals that will last their lifetime. We set goals and worked hard to achieve those goals, and we learned that accomplishments are not granted but earned. Regardless of the profession these 4-H'ers pursue, the experience WVU Extension has gifted them will help them achieve their potential.” 

Michael Shamblin noted that the importance of soil conservation is something anyone who attends this event will take to heart. The competition reinforces the principles of soil conservation that each of the three coaches worked so hard to instill.  

“This experience allowed our 4-H'ers to meet others with shared interests and network with professionals,” Michael Shamblin said. “These 4-H'ers were able to develop a vision of the world that is much larger than their county boundaries.”  

From 1959 to 2023, West Virginia 4-H and FFA teams have won more than 40 national championships.  

To learn more about opportunities in the 4-H program, visit, or contact your local office of WVU Extension. 



CONTACT: Sophia Darmelio 

WVU Extension  

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