FARGO, N.D. — Every year during the first full week in June, more than 1,300 FFA members and advisers from across North Dakota meet on the North Dakota State University campus for their annual state convention.
That is, every year but last year. The 2020 convention, like many 2020 events worldwide, was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. North Dakota held its convention virtually and sent out 1,000 Convention Boxes filled with surprises and gifts, including a T-shirt for members who signed up.
So the organization was enthusiastic to get back to normal this year, with a convention held June 7-10.
The event included members conducting official North Dakota FFA business, competing in Career Development events and receiving FFA state degrees and other awards.
While students competed in more than 30 different award, degree and CDE events during the convention, some contests were determined at earlier FFA events. That includes livestock judging, which was decided at the March 22 Winter CDE. LaMoure FFA won that contest and will represent North Dakota at the National FFA Convention in the fall.
Livestock judging is a family affair for three-fourths of the LaMoure team. Mollie Robbins is joined by siblings Reed, Rose and Ryder Wendel. The Wendels have long judged together.
"It started when we were little, junior 4-H," said Reed Wendel. "We had a really strong junior team at Dickey County. And it kind of grew from there."
"We used to actually judge with two of the state officers, Caleb and Calli Hauk," Rose Wendel said. "They were on our 4-H team for the longest time, and those two and Reed and I just always kind of looked up to them, so that's kind of where I started to get more involved with it."
Ryder Wendel, the youngest of the sibling group and an upcoming sophomore in high school, said it's fun to judge with his older siblings.
"I just enjoy it, I guess, being by them and helping them," he said. "They give me pointers on what to do and what not to do."
For the Wendels, livestock judging has real-world application.
"We have a bull sale, and me and Ryder and Rose, we all help Dad write footnotes for that, and we help make the sale order," Reed Wendel said. "So we end up livestock judging cattle on a daily basis."
"It helped me, like when we were looking through cattle to buy," Ryder Wendel said. "It helps us pick out what ones are good to us and what ones we want."
But it's not just cattle knowledge that they've gained.
"It helps you in a whole different aspect, just your public speaking, getting up in front of people, to shake people's hands even," said Reed Wendel.