Farm Bureau brings Agribee Contest to local students


Bee honest, if you will.

Can you spell “penicillin” or “aggregate” without looking up (or googling) those words?

How about define them?

Well, Emma Jhuty, a fifth grader at McSwain School, did so correctly at Merced County’s first-ever Agribee Contest last Friday at the Mainzer Theater.

Jhuty took top honors among 23 other local students by accurately spelling and defining those words in the final round of the contest. She won the First Place award and a new iPad. Second place was awarded to Camila Aguayo, also fifth grader at McSwain. She received a $100 gift card to Barnes & Noble.

The Agribee program was originally developed by the Butte County Farm Bureau. It’s a spelling bee contest focused on the spelling and defining of agriculturally related words. This year, the Merced County Farm Bureau (MCFB) brought it to this region for the first time.

“We had wanted to do it for awhile,” said Breanne Vandenberg, the MCFB executive director. “This year we increased our staff, and we thought it was a great program to ad to our educational portfolio.”

The Farm Bureau invited all 4th and 5th graders in the county to participate, and sent out a list of words to school that would be used in the contest.

“The teachers and students took it from there,” Vandenberg said. “I’m assuming there is a lot of parent involvement, which we love to see, in helping the kids get involved.”

The local elementary schools that responded were Ballico, Plainsburg, El Nido, McSwain and Washington.

“We were so excited to get the turnout we did for our first Agribee,” said Denelle Flake, project specialist for MCFB. “The students should all be proud of the hard work they put in to study for the contest.”

Alexxis Rudich, MCFB project assistant added, “We hope that the program teaches the participants and their families how important the agriculture industry is to our community. We cannot wait to watch this program grow in future years and for more schools to be represented.”

The Agribee judges included: Nikki Malm, a retired third grade teacher from Marks Elementary in Dos Palos; Joe Sansoni, an almond farmer and MCFB President; and Nita Pedrozo, a retired Merced County Schools administrator.

MCFB would like to thank the following sponsors for their support: American Ag Credit, Arnold Farms LP, Chance Land and Cattle, Cortez Growers Association, Double G Farms, Fluetsch & Busby Insurance, Ed Silva Farms, Shannon Pump Company, Van De Pol Petroleum and Willow Tree Ranches.

A special thank you goes to the Mainzer Theatre and Kimberly Gardner for the use of the Mainzer facilities and aid in the coordination of the event.

The following students participated in the event:

Ballico Elementary School
  • Elyse Arias, 5th grade
  • Zaraiah Avila, 5th grade
  • Barrett Buhrmann, 4th grade
  • Sofia Davalos, 4th grade
  • Kevin Gijon, 4th grade
  • Austin Guenther, 5th grade
  • Miguel Angel Hernandez Lucas, 4th grade
  • Estrella Magana, 5th grade
  • Circle Szelestey, 4th grade
  • Clara Trevizo, 4th grade
  • Amelia Zuniga, 4th grade


Plainsburg Elementary School
  • Walter Rossow, 4th grade


El Nido Elementary School
  • Alexander Aguirre, 5th grade
  • Yazmin Cruz, 5th grade
  • Angel Gomez, 5th grade
  • Natalya Melo Hernandez, 5th grade
  • Yesenia Lopez Inguanzo, 5th grade


Washington Elementary School
  • Ashley Ruby Castaneda, 4th grade
  • Serenity Knapik, 5th grade


McSwain Elementary School
  • Camila Aguayo, 5th grade
  • Ethan Bridgman, 5th grade
  • Emma Jhuty, 5th grade
  • Alissa Kuhr, 5th grade
EducationMercedMerced County
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