Tonasket FFA enters tractor into national contest

Takes second in state in horse judging

TONASKET – The Tonasket FFA has already had a busy start of the school year, highlighted by its performance in horse judging competition, awards raked in at the Okanogan County Fair and the submission of a restored tractor into a national contest.

Submitted photo
Tonasket FFA’s horse judging team earned state runner-up honors at the Adams County Fair last month. Pictured are (l-r) Elizabeth Jackson, Vanessa Pershing, Brisa Leep, John Symonds and Breanna Howell. Howell also took fourth individually.

Tonasket ag teacher Matt Deebach said that his group’s performance in state horse judging at the Adams County Fair in Othello came as a surprise even to him. John Symonds, Brisa Leep, Vanessa Pershing, Elizabeth Jackson and Breanna Howell earned state runner-up honors, finishing second to Chelan by 20 points on a 1,300 point scale.

“I expected us to do well, but we were 20 points away from making nationals,” Deebach said. “I knew we were good, just not that good. It was crazy how close we were to winning, unbelievable.”

Additionally, the group’s only senior, Howell, finished fifth in the state individually.

“It’s pretty exciting for next year when you finish second. Hopefully we have some room to improve.”

Also at the Adams County Fair, Tonasket finished third in dairy judging, with Kasey Silverthorn taking fourth overall, and participated in livestock judging.

“We have a young group, and in livestock judging we made some mistakes we won’t make again,” Deebach said. “They made those mistakes and heard about them, and really ended up doing well in the dairy judging.”

At the Okanogan County Fair, Tonasket FFA took first in sweepstakes, an award for overall points. Tonasket finished first in produce, first in agronomy, tied for first in tractor driving and second in livestock.

 Tale of the tractor

Months of work culminated in the entry of the Tonasket FFA’s restored Case orchard tractor into the national Delo Tractor Restoration Competition. The competition requires so much of its participants that there were only 23 entrants nationwide.

Twelve entrants were selected on Monday, Sept. 24, to defend their work at the national FFA convention, and though the Tonasket project wasn’t selected, it was still in the running in a separate contest for best video submitted to the comptition.

Brent Baker/staff photo
Tonasket ag teacher Matt Deebach was interviewed by KREM 2 (Spokane) television weather forecaster Tom Sherry on Friday night in Tonasket as part of Sherry’s “Tom’s Tailgate” visit. Deebach, along with Patti and George Hill and Wyatt O’Brien, discussed the Case tractor the Tonasket FFA restored and entered into a national contest.

“We’d tried to do this before, and we’ve gotten tractors done before, but never all the paperwork,” Deebach said. “The kids really wanted to make a commitment to do it. We took the whole tractor, ;iece by piece, and did write-ups on everything they did. They put it all into a workbook that got submitted for scoring.

“They also had to make the video. It’s pretty intense. Not many do it because its so much work and extremely complicated. So I’m impressed with the kids, just for seeing it through and getting it done.”

The tractor even got some air time on Tom Sherry’s KREM 2 tailgate broadcast last Friday, when Deebach was interviewed in front of his shop class’s handiwork.

“We started last November,” he said. “We didn’t pick an easy tractor. The orchard tractor was very rare, and the sheet metal was the original, so it was pretty challenging.”

The dozen students involved ended up having to completely rebuild the motor. The project took from November until just after Founders Day in June to complete.

“It wasn’t running when we pulled it in,” Deebach said. “We thought we could get away with just rebuilding the carburetor and distributor, but it smoked so much that we ended up having to do a complete rebuild.”

Deebach said it would be impossible to overestimate the contributions of George Hill, who helped through the entire process.

“He was a huge help,” he said. “He put in countless hours. The kids were just learning the process, and he was really the key to getting it done.

“The ag program sure appreciates the area we live in and the people willing to help,” he added. “It really makes you feel part of the community. It’s nice to see everyone pull together. It seems to be when things won’t work, we pull together as a group and make things happen. In this county everyone kind of looks after one another.”

Note: public voting for the Tonasket FFA’s video submission continues until Oct. 22 at the video contest website.