Monica Gomez and Alexis Wilson of the Ontario FAA researched the so-called "five-second rule" for their award-winning project at the Oregon FFA convention. (Ontario FFA)

Monica Gomez remembered being dispatched at an area farm to harvest potatoes.

“I had no idea potatoes had to be dug up. I just couldn’t find them,” said Gomez, now a senior at Ontario High School.

Since that experience, she’s learned a great deal about agriculture and proved it at the recent Oregon FFA convention in Redmond.

She won one state competition, took a second title with a partner, and picked up a prestigious FFA scholarship.

Gomez was among several state winners from Malheur County.

She has been involved in FFA since her freshman year in high school. Her first FFA event was a dairy judging contest near Vale.

“I had very little knowledge of what a dairy cow should look like,” said Gomez. “What drew me back to FAA was the experiences and the amazing people and all the things you can learn.”

For this year’s competition, Gomez teamed up with Alexis Wilson for an entry in food products and processing.

She said the team wanted to design a science project that would “address everyday questions that we ask ourselves.”

They settled on answering: Does the five-second rule work?

That’s the idea that if you drop food on a floor or other dirty surface, it remains safe to eat if scooped up within five seconds.

They used Gummy bears to test the concept. They compared a dirty desk to a clean desk, discovering that bacteria still existed on both.

Gomez said when they presented their findings at the state convention, “it was really eye opening and a lot of people were interested.”

The conclusion?

“The rule definitely does not work,” said Gomez.

She wasn’t the only Gomez to come home with a win.

Her sister Maya, a freshman, was part of two winning teams at state. Her brother Michael, a junior, came home with his state degree.

Gomez is an enthusiastic promoter of FFA.

“FFA has shown me that if you set your mind to something, you can truly do it,” she said. “If you think something is impossible, you can make it possible.”

For example, she said, FFA teaches students how to stand before an audience to make an impromptu speech on a topic given to them just moments before, or how to prepare for a job interview.

Gomez is planning on a nursing career, and becoming a traveling nurse. She said her volunteer work at the Immigration and Refugee Community Organization in Ontario put her in touch with those from overseas who have escaped warfare and other challenges.

“I can be part of helping someone else’s community” as a nurse, Gomez said.

Here are the local winners as reported by the Oregon FFA:

Winners – Proficiency Competition

•Ag Mechanics Design & Fabrication – Henry Garrett, Ontario

•Agriscience Research-Plant Science – Francisco Millian, Ontario

•Agricultural Services – Rance Prentiss, Ontario

•Dairy Production-Entrepreneurship – Rylie Stokes, Vale

•Forage Production – Jessica Arriola, Vale

Winners – Agriscience Fair

•Animal Systems (Division 3) – Gabrielle Prentiss, Ontario

•Environmental Sciences & Natural Resource Systems (Division 3) – Ryan Geddes, Ontario

•Food Products & Processing Systems (Division 3) – Kyndra Williams, Jordan Valley

•Food Products & Processing Systems (Division 6) – Alexis Wilson and Monica Gomez-Meza, Ontario

•Power, Technical, and Social Systems (Division 6) Alexandria Peters and Julie Kerpa, Ontario

•Social Systems (Division 4) – Maya Gomez and Brooke Campbell, Ontario

Results – Career Development

•Creed 2nd place – Clare Dwyer, Ontario

•Beginning Public Speaking 4th place – Azure Porter, Ontario

•Advanced Public Speaking 1st place – Aliza Saunders, Vale

•Farm Business Management 1st place, Nyssa; 2nd place, Ontario

•Job Interview 2nd place – Ella Draper, Nyssa

Results – Chapter Book

• Portfolio Advanced (bronze) – Cassidy Gluch, Jordan Valley

• Technology Scrapbook (silver) – Vale

•Scrapbook (bronze )– Jordan Valley

•Secretary Book (silver) – Jordan Valley, Vale

•Treasurer’s Book (bronze) – Vale

Other awards:

FFA Information Contest 1st place – Malea Lambros, Maya Joslin, Maya Gomez, Macy Fordyce, Ryan Geddes, Clare Dwyer, Colson Johnston, Azure Porter

National Chapter Gold – Vale

State degrees:

ADRIAN: Elizabeth Nielsonk, Lindsey Bertalotto, Morgyn Babcockk, Sadie Wagsterk.

JORDAN VALLEY: Grady Johnsrud, Kaylee Stoddart, Kelsey Gluch.

NYSSA: Brady Cooper, Briana Campos, Ronnie Bueno, Rylee Tullett, Shelby Shuster.

ONTARIO: Aidan Nutt, Fransico Millian, Henry Garrett, Jennifer Nunez, Jimenia Anguanio, Julie Kerpa, Katelynn Hussman, Michael Gomez, Paige Eidson, Paisly Porter, Rance Prentiss, Tevan Frahm.

VALE: Colt Cummings, Helen Zanabriga, Jessi Arriola, John Wolfe, Josie Jacobs, Lane Clark, Logan Hibbitts, Ricardo Bueno, Riley Johnson, Rylie Stokes, Tanner Steele.

 Members of the Ontario FFA team, which brought home several awards from the Oregon FFA convention held in Redmond. (Ontario FFA)

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