MURRAY, Ky. — Students from the Murray State University Hutson School of Agriculture won multiple contests at the 2017 North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA) Student Judging Conference hosted by Kansas State University.

At the conference held April 6–8 in Manhattan, Kansas, MSU Agribusiness Club students participated in five contests: ag communications, agribusiness, computer applications, livestock management and the knowledge bowl. Murray State students placed as the top team in the four-year division in the agribusiness competition and in the ag communications competition. Individual students also placed well with Caleb Brannon placing third high individual in each of the agribusiness and computer applications contests and Chandler Christian placing fourth high individual in the agribusiness contest.

“It was great to compete with my fellow club members against schools from all across the nation and come out victorious in our contests,” said senior agribusiness major Caleb Brannon.

The agribusiness contest consisted of two parts, including a written exam and a case study of a Kansas agricultural production operation that required strategic analysis and a recommendation presented to judges. The contest is intended to evaluate a competitor’s grasp of concepts such as agribusiness management, agricultural economics, agricultural finance, agricultural policy and law and commodity marketing. The team placed second in the case study portion and took top team honors for the contest.

Members of the agribusiness team included Kayla Burroughs, Hopkinsville; Caleb Brannon, Puryear, Tennessee; Chandler Christian, Owensboro; and Hannah Ice, West Frankfort, Illinois.

Christian, senior agribusiness major, said, “I’m happy that my education at Murray State has prepared me to succeed in challenging competitions and in job competition.”

The top-placing ag communication team was composed of three members: Danielle Caldwell of Adolphus; Breanna Cowsert of St. Anne, Illinois; and Hannah Ice. This contest required team members to individually complete a written exam and then work collectively on a practicum. The written exam required students to edit a news release and answer general knowledge questions over communications topics. For the practicum, the team received a press packet and sat in on a press conference over the farm bill. Teams then had 60 minutes for their members to create a 2-page magazine spread, a blog post and a 60-second video that promoted the information presented in the press conference. Murray State University placed highest in the practicum section and had the winning team.

Senior agribusiness major Breanna Cowsert said, “I have chosen to pursue a career in agricultural communications, and this contest allowed me to use the skills I have learned over the last four years and put them to the test. This contest truly taught me how important it is to ‘get the word out’ about agriculture.”

The computer applications team consisted of Kayla Burroughs, Caleb Brannon, Rebecca Mackey of Elizabethtown and Caitlin Oakes of Olmstead. Benjamin Hornback of Slaughters competed in livestock management.

In between contests, students were able to tour local agribusinesses. Students met with the owners of Liquid Art Winery and Estate to tour Manhattan’s newest winery and vineyard, and they received a tour and discussion of the O.H. Kruse Feed Technology Innovation Center located on the Kansas State University campus.

“One of my favorite parts of our trip to Manhattan, Kansas was our trip to the Liquid Art Winery. It was amazing to listen to the owners talk about how they made their dreams a reality. I was in awe at how much they have accomplished at their young ages (27 and 29),” said senior agribusiness major Hannah Ice.

The annual judging conference saw participation of over 700 college students from more than 20 four-year schools and 15 two-year schools from across the United States. Overall, thirteen agriculture and natural resources contests were held at the conference. Contests included ag communications, agribusiness, computer applications, crops, dairy judging, equine management, horticulture, knowledge bowl, livestock judging, livestock management, meat judging, precision agriculture, and soil judging.

Other senior-division schools participating in the same contests as Murray State included Iowa State University, University of Minnesota–Crookston, Fort Hays State University, Texas A&M University, University of Wisconsin–Platteville, Northwest Missouri State University and West Texas A&M University.

“I like to travel, and NACTA gives me the opportunity to travel and see different parts of the country while also competing with other top-tier universities,” said Ben Hornback of his second year competing in the NACTA contest.

Along with the Murray State University agribusiness club and the Hutson School of Agriculture, sponsors of the team include Calloway County Farm Bureau, Furches Farm of Murray, Luttrull Feeds of Pembroke, Lake Hill Farms of Owensboro, Chandler Christian, Caleb Brannon and Hannah Ice.

For more information about Murray State’s participation in the 2017 NACTA judging conference, contact Dr. Michelle Santiago at

Students from the MSU Agribusiness Club placed first in the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA) agribusiness team contest held at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas on April 6, 2017. Agribusiness seniors Caleb Brannon and Chandler Christian individually placed third and fourth in the contest. Members of the team include (from L to R): Caleb Brannon, Puryear, Tennessee; Kayla Burroughs, Hopkinsville; Hannah Ice, West Frankfort, Illinois; and Chandler Christian, Owensboro.
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