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BR Has The Right Tools For Ag Dominance

From left, Bear River’s Wyatt Thompson, Braden Smith, Nikolas Palacio and Morgan Fowler. Photo by Andy Barhydt

Bear River’s Ag Mech Team placed first at the California FFA Agricultural Mechanics State Finals on May 7 at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, and will be advancing toward nationals in the fall. The team, consisting of Wyatt Thompson, Morgan Fowler, Nikolas Palacio, and Braden Smith, have been working hard throughout their years at Bear River.

At the competitions, students are expected to remember and produce different skills. The contests consist of three written tests and three hands-on tests, explained Andrew Barhydt, who is the Ag Mech teacher and team advisor.

“The contest rotates every four years, as far as a couple of the skill areas,” Barhydt said. “The main ones that stay every year are arc welding, electrical wiring, written tests, tool identification, and problem-solving/plan interpretation tests. The alternating ones, which this year we had, was woodworking.” 

Together, the students built a complex wooden joint, joined lights to an electrical circuit board, and welded metal joints. Thompson won second high individual as a sophomore.

“We all had to pay attention to the plans,” Thompson explained. “It was very technical.” 

“I had a really good time, it was a really good bonding experience for the rest of the team, and we got to have a little break,” Thompson stated. “We went to the beach, we checked out a couple of the local landmarks. But then we also studied and were serious about the competition.” 

All Bear River contestants had a great time on the trip.

“We went to a Home Depot and did tool ID, and we practiced surveying out on the lawn in front of the hotel we were staying at,” Fowler said, a junior who won fifth high individual.  

“It was a lot of fun.”

This team has worked incredibly hard to get to the position they are in now.

“They are sophomores and juniors, and really this is only their second year competing,” Barhydt said.

The juniors hadn’t had a proper freshman year in Ag Mechanics because of complications with Covid, Barhydt said.

“Those juniors had hybrid learning and the shop wasn’t open, so they didn’t get into the shop as a freshman until April freshman year,” he explained.

Other than a difficult freshman year for the juniors, they have worked harder than most other students.

“They practice before school, we practice during Flex times. They also have been studying on their own, so going through the material I’ve given them, and doing things on their own,” Barhydt said.

“It is pretty hard to balance Ag Mechanics studies with my regular school studies, but I manage,” said Palacio, a sophomore and Ag Mech competitor.

Together, the Ag Mech team will be practicing over the summer, and going over materials for nationals.

“We will be learning about different tractor operations and a lot of practices used on big farms and the mechanic industry because nationals is going to be so much different,” Fowler stated. “We have so much to learn about big operations that are not in Nevada County.” 

There are new skills involved in nationals that the team needs to learn over summer break.

“In that contest, they also throw in equipment, tractors, implements, hydraulics — things that they don’t cover in the state contests,” Barhydt explained. “So, it is definitely going to be a challenge to learn everything in a couple months.” 

Even if there is a lot of material to cover, the team believes they can cover it all and come as prepared as possible. Barhydt and his team are honored to be able to compete at a national level.

“I am excited to go and see how our team does,” Barhydt stated. “It’s such a big honor for such a small school to go to that level of competition.” 

The team is especially excited and proud of all their hard work.

“I feel so proud and excited to be able to compete at the national level, it is almost a dream come true for me and I could not be more happy,” Smith, a junior competitor, added.

“It was bittersweet,” Thompson explained. “I was really excited because we won, but sad because we wouldn’t be able to compete in Ag Mech anymore.”

“The smiles on everyone’s faces, and the calls home, all those things, it was very exciting,” Barhydt claimed. “And for me as the coach/teacher, it is an honor to have students that work that hard and put in the effort to actually win.” 

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Margaret Ralston
Margaret Ralston, Social Media Editor
Margaret Ralston is the Social Media Editor for the BRCurrent. This is her second year in Online Multimedia. She plays golf for Bear River and hopes to be the captain by her junior year. Margaret loves to paint and care for all of her plants (there are 25 to be exact). She loves going to the river with friends and shredding it up on the slopes!
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BR Has The Right Tools For Ag Dominance