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MWCTC students headed to national PAS conference

Minnesota West Community and Technical College Postsecondary Agricultural Student Organization team members include Sabrina Klein, Taylor Ahrenstorff and Eric Fick from the crops team; Nathan Olsem from the College Bowl team; and Lucas Nath, Shelby Springman and Mitch Gravenhof from the beef team. Missing are College Bowl team members Trent Slater and Dalton Jeffers.(Julie Buntjer/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- Several Minnesota West Community and Technical College students from the Worthington campus are gearing up for a trip to Louisville, Ky., later this month to compete in the Postsecondary Agricultural Student (PAS) Organization's national conference.

The students earned the trip after scoring high marks in the Minnesota PAS conference contests in mid-February.

Lucas Nath of Luverne, Mitch Gravenhof of Worthington and Shelby Springman of Wilmont placed second overall of the beef team competitors in the state contest. All three grew up raising cattle and showing beef in the 4-H program.

The beef contest included a test of 100 multiple choice questions that each participant had to answer, followed by a team problem-solving competition, Springman explained. Questions covered everything from beef nutrition and genetics to diseases, reproduction, herd management and marketing, while the team problem solving contest included an essay about improving a beef herd.

This was the first year that each of the three team members competed in the PAS contest, which is quite different from the beef team competitions in the FFA. In PAS, there is no judging of animal classes.

Going into the state contest, Gravenhof said there was no practice at all.

"We used what we know from working on our own farms," he said. "It was all on our basic knowledge."

"We had no idea what was going to be on the test, so we just went in with what we knew," Nath added.

Also garnering a second-place finish in the Minnesota PAS contest was the Minnesota West College Bowl team of Nathan Olsem of Dundee, Trent Slater of Wilmont and Dalton Jeffers of St. Kilian.

Olsem, who just transferred to Minnesota West's Worthington campus this semester, said their contest included teams facing off against each other in a bracket-style format.

"As you go through the elimination brackets, you slowly move up," he said, adding that his team lost in the third elimination bracket, but came back to win their way through the loser's bracket to take the second place finish.

The College Bowl contest includes a variety of questions, ranging from livestock and horticulture to "which side of the house do you put a patio," Olsem said.

"Our team had a couple of strong players, and I helped with quite a few of the bonus questions," he said, adding that all of the PAS students from Minnesota West competed on a College Bowl team and a second team competition. PAS contests cover a broad range of agricultural-related topics.

In preparation for the national contest, which is March 18-21, Olsem said he will be looking through books and reference material, but also said the classes he is enrolled in now are also helping.

The crops team, consisting of Sabrina Klein, Bigelow, Eric Fick, Beaver Creek, and Taylor Ahrenstorff, Sioux Valley, earned sixth place in the state PAS contest, which also qualified them to advance to nationals.

"It's a good agronomy competition," said Fick of the contest. "We're given a farm plan with weeds and a specific fertilizer problem and we set up fertilizer and chemicals for the farm for a year. We figure out costs."

This was Fick's second year competing in the crops contest, along with Klein, while Ahrenstorff joined the team after participating on a livestock team at Minnesota West last year.

Klein said a lot of the time in their contest was spent figuring out recommendations for things like fertilizer and chemicals.

The team worked out of a manual Ahrenstorff gestured to be about five or six inches thick to be able to answer questions.

There's certainly more figuring that goes into crop production these days as compared to years past, but Ahrenstorff said that's because there are more problems today.

"There's more pressure from different sources," he said. "There's different weeds, different insects, different diseases, different fungi you've got to know to cover your bases."

"You have to know all your own numbers for your operation," added Fick. "There's more chemicals and there's more options out there now."

Of the PAS students, Gravenhof, Fick and Ahrenstorff plan to return to farming in the future, while Klein plans to attend South Dakota State University to major in agronomy. Olsem said he'll likely pursue a career in Global Information Systems, and Springman plans to pursue a degree in animal science. Nath said he hasn't yet decided what he will pursue for a career.

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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