St. Helena’s FFA vine pruning team won the state championship on Feb. 2, during the FFA Mid-Winter State Finals at Fresno State University.
The team consisted of Alexys Bautista, Maria Ortega, Stefhany Rios and Liesl Wolf-Heinemann.
Teams from 22 California schools competed in the event. It featured a written test on viticulture and plant physiology, pruning practices, pests and growing processes, as well as a pruning competition with three types of vines: cane pruning on Selma Pete, bilateral spur on Albarino, and quadrilateral spur on Flame Seedless varieties.
Students pruned two vines in eight minutes, and on the third vine they orally described to the judges what they were doing and what effect it had on the vine.
The St. Helena team, coached by St. Helena High School agriculture instructor Judy Aschwanden, scored first on the written test, first on quadrilateral spur pruning, fourth on bilateral spur pruning, fifth on cane pruning, and won first place overall to claim the championship.
The team came home with a silver bowl and a first-place ribbon. Maria Ortega was also honored for scoring the third-highest individual score in the state.
The team competes every year and last won the state championship in 2012.
This year’s team competed in a total of five contests, including one in St. Helena. The other teammates who competed throughout the season were Elliott Dunham, Tania Echeverria, Brandon Forgie, Sergio Hernandez, Daniela Mendoza and Andrea Rojas.
The team thanked Aschwanden, the St. Helena Ag Boosters, Mike Neal, Johnny White, Salvador Rios, David Peters, and other supporters who helped with practices, provided pruning sites, and supported the team.