La.'s best kept secret for forest industry

Managers in the wood products industry should prioritize hiring graduates who hold the advanced forestry credential certified by the Louisiana Forestry Association. But, how many managers even know that the LFA acts as a certifying agency for a statewide forestry credential?

Allow me to introduce you to Louisiana’s best kept secret.

Let’s start at the beginning. In the fall of 1978, the first Louisiana FFA forestry contest was hosted by Louisiana Tech; there were about 40 students who participated in that standalone state contest. Legendary agriculture teacher and regional FFA supervisor Russell Sullivan (from Winnfield) is credited with creating the contest which consisted of tree identification, timber cruising, compass reading/pacing and timber stand improvement (TSI). These early forestry contests were held as a way for young people to meet like-minded rural youth and get introduced to a career opportunity.

Over the course of 43 years the forestry contest has evolved into an industry-based assessment that is considered workforce training. Today’s contest has the traditional practicums of tree ID and mensuration, but it dives deeper into silviculture practices by way of practicums in tree disorders, conservation standards and topographic map reading. To say the event has grown is an understatement. In 2019, more than 750 students from all corners of Louisiana participated in Louisiana FFA forestry contests.

Louisiana FFA forestry contests begin in early September and culminate with the state championship in mid-October. Most FFA forestry students start practice before school starts in August and the top teams spend an average of 150 hours after school each fall in practice.

One cannot effectively learn to cruise timber, pace or identify trees inside a classroom. So, they travel to the woods with their Ag teacher. Most campuses do not have a forest so all serious forestry teams practice after school in the glorious autumn heat and humidity that Louisiana has to offer. The students who excel in that environment are the ones who love working, love the woods, and love to learn. The work ethic these students have