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4-H members able to compete

Pictured, members of the Unicoi County 4-H organization at competition and working on projects. (Contributed photos)

Contributed by Chris Mackey

While many events have been altered or cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, that certainly hasn’t stopped many of our Unicoi County 4-H members from competing in various events this summer.

The Unicoi County GPS/GIS Team brought home their seventh state championship in the Tennessee State 4-H GPS contest. Students utilize various GPS technology to create maps and databases to help improve their communities.

This year’s award-winning project mapped the sidewalks through the town of Erwin as a means to bring attention to areas where sidewalk conditions could be improved for residents and visitors.

This year’s team members include: Eli Caldwell, Elisabeth Casey, Christiana Gilbert, Josh Gilbert, Isabella Laws, Matthew Laws, Ben Merritt, Haley Russel, Alaina Satterly, and Nickoli Stump. Members of the state winning team have the opportunity to attend the Esri Conference every year in California. Unfortunately, this year’s conference was not held in person; however, senior members Elisabeth Casey, Christiana Gilbert, and Ben Merritt were able to attend virtually and represent TN on the National Youth GIS/GPS Team.

The Unicoi County 4-H Livestock Judging Team has also been extremely busy this summer. Livestock judging tests students’ knowledge about animal production, evaluation, and selection. Members are given a minimum of six classes of livestock (beef cattle, swine, sheep/goats) to evaluate and rank based on given criteria. Certain classes are required for members to answer questions or present oral reasons to a panel of judges defending their placings for each class. Unicoi County competed at the TN 4-H Eastern Region Livestock Judging Contest on the UT Campus and brought home second High Senior Team Overall with team members John Hilemon II and Tate Kerns placing as the fifth and eighth High Individuals Overall in the contest, respectively.

Team members also include Connor Brackins, Levi Carver, and Matthew Laws. Junior member Isabella Laws was the only junior member to represent Unicoi County and had a very strong final score. The senior team had a mere two-week turnaround to prepare for the state contest. To our knowledge, this is the first time ever a team from Unicoi has advanced to the state contest. Out of 12 eligible senior teams, Unicoi had a strong finish and placed eighth overall at the state contest.

Additional awards include sixth high Team in Swine, seventh in Oral Reasons, eighth in Beef, eighth in Sheep/Goats with Tate Kerns recognized as the fourth High Individual in Sheep/Goats.

We are extremely proud of our 4-Her’s for their determination and dedication to our program. Despite the drastic changes, our youth have risen to the occasion and pushed on full force.

If you are interested in learning more about 4-H or are in search of ways to volunteer, contact Chris Mackey in the UT Extension Office at 735-1637 or email [email protected] Program announcements and timely educational resources can also be found on the local UT Extension Facebook page at