Heather Haines, 4-H Agent, UGA Extension Forsyth County

Many people do not realize that Georgia is home to more timber acreage and privately owned timber acreage than any other state. In fact, Georgia’s forest industry contributed $41.3 billion to the state’s economy in 2021. Each year, the Georgia Forestry Commission consults with landowners to help identify insects, diseases, and invasive species that might be affecting their crop. Even as a private landowner, you might have noticed odd bumps on a plant and wonder what caused them. While preparing for Georgia 4-H’s Forestry Field Day contest, that is just one of the many questions that 4-H youth learn how to answer.

In preparation for the yearly contest, youth in 4th-12th grade begin practicing and learning the necessary information for the competition. The contest is split into two divisions, a Junior Division for 4th through 8th grade students and a Senior Division for high school students. Junior 4-H’ers are asked to identify 44 tree species, various insects, and diseases, use their pace to estimate distance, and learn how to estimate sawtimber volume. in addition-H’ers learn to identify and spell the names of 70 trees, 30 insects, and 23 diseases that can affect tress, estimate sawtimber volume, and learn compassing in addition to pacing. 

A young Indian boy making notes on a clipboard while studying tree leaves.
Shaurya Patel identifying samples of Georgia’s native trees.

Tree identification is an important part of the contest because different tree species have varying requirements for growth and differ in use and value. Insect identification is a valuable skill because most insects that damage tress only affect certain tree species or groups of related species. If insects cause a lot of damage to a forest, it can result in high economic losses. Likewise, forest health can be gauged by looking for different diseases and how frequently they occur in a stand of trees.  

By participating in Forestry Judging youth learn about plant identification, the diversity of trees in our state, and they gain an understanding of the standards that are used in Georgia’s timber industry. They also acquire a better understanding and appreciation for our state’s forestry resources and how they contribute to our economy and quality of life.  

On September 7, 2023, 9 Forsyth County 4-H’ers competed in the District Forestry Judging Competition at Sandy Creek Nature Center in Athens, Georgia. Junior Team members included: Tallulah Bates, Clara Cureton, Elise Cureton, Adhya Patel, Neeva Patel, Shaurya Patel, Divya Patil, Pal Vaghani, and Toby Wilcox. The Junior Team placed 5th overall. Adhya, Divya, and Neeva all scored 100s in the pacing section of the competition! Senior 4-H’er Clara Cureton competed individually. The Forsyth County team is coached by Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator Shannon Henderson and she was assisted this year by 4-H Educator Gordon Purcell.

An adult woman and a middle school girl are standing in a field.
Heather Haines assists 4-H’er Elise Cureton as Elise attempts to determine how far she has walked during the pacing section of the contest. Photo by Josie Smith.

If your child is interested in Forestry Judging but missed the practice season this year, make sure you check out Conservation Club! Conservation Club meets once a month at the Forsyth County Extension / 4-H Office. During the meetings, youth learn about local ecosystems, environmental stewardship, and become more environmentally aware. Current 4th-12th graders can get registered by visiting https://t.uga.edu/9fq.

The next opportunity to participate in a 4-H judging team will be Cotton Boll and Consumer Judging beginning on October 5. You can register online now by visiting https://t.uga.edu/9m9.

Wildlife Judging and Poultry Judging will be available to all Forsyth County youth in 4th-12th grade this Spring.  

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