James River Blog

Thursday, February 22, 2024

FFA John Deere Gator Wars 2024

The Western NC Gator Wars competition was held Thursday Feb. 15 at James River Equipment in Salisbury, NC, where 25 North Carolina FFA Organization Chapter teams came to compete and qualify for the State competition.
The Gator Wars program was created by the National FFA Organization and John Deere to provide a competition for high school students with a mechanical background, while also creating a program for students who enjoyed working with their hands but were not necessarily farmers.

The original idea came when a small group of students were challenged to diagnose and repair a John Deere Gator that was “bugged” with known issues. The idea grew and eventually became a regional and state competition with additional activities. The Gator Wars competition has evolved, but essentially consists of competitions where students diagnose equipment issues at various stations.

For the 2024 Gator Wars, students put their mechanical skills to the test by completing four different challenges:


  • Basic knowledge test – essential agricultural mechanics knowledge with the identification of small engine tools and materials

  • Small engine - using service manuals to identify the correct piston ring and installation of the rings on the cylinder head.

  • Hydraulics – understanding the correlation of shaft size to capacity and calculating the capacity of the cylinder.

  • Electrical diagnostics - problem-solving to decipher a fault in an electrical system and correct the error.


This competition helps to develop career-ready students by challenging them using real-world scenarios that would exist in a typical agricultural repair shop. 

 “The development of problem-solving, and critical thinking skills are essential to success in any career and in life. This competition prepares students to meet that challenge,” said Jason Chester, central region agricultural education coordinator – North Carolina FFA.

 Students were given the situations and then had 15 minutes to complete the task. Once finished their work was scored and the performance tabulated.

This year encompassed a record number of teams, as well as students, coordinators, and volunteers at the event. The following schools had FFA Chapters that competed this year: AC Reynolds HS, Alexander Central, Avery County FFA, Bandys FFA, Chase FFA, Crest High, Davie county, East Davidson, East Henderson High, Eastern Guilford, Lake Norman FFA, McDowell FFA, Mount Pleasant High, Mount Pleasant Middle School, North Iredell, North Stanly High School, North Wilkes High School, Orange FFA, Piedmont, R-S Central, Southwestern Randolph High School, Southwestern Randolph Middle, Surry Central, Watauga, West Henderson High School, and West Wilkes.

Service Technicians were on hand with service trucks and different pieces of agricultural equipment to show the students what a career with James River Equipment could be like. They sat through a program learning about scholarships and apprenticeship opportunities at Wake Tech and James River Equipment.

 After competing in two waves of 12 and 13 teams, the scores were tabulated, and the results were:



First Place West Henderson – Elijah Toler, Harrison Davis, Jason Livingston, coordinator, Wyatt Gilbert, Tanner Garren. 


Second Place Tie Alexander Central – Bradley Hendren, Mason Sink, Jude Bumgarner, Garrett Jolly, Scottie Cook, coordinator


Second Place Tie Watauga – Tate Ward, Ashton Brumfield, Sydni Carmichael, Lilly Farley, Halee Bare, coordinator

 Hundreds of students got to experience the ins and outs of dealership life and what it might be like to have a career with a John Deere dealer. For more career opportunities click here. 

A special thanks to all the chapters that attended. 
FFA Chapters:
 AC Reynolds, HS Alexander Central, Avery County FFA,  Bandys FFA, Chase FFA, Crest High, Davie county,  East Davidson, East Henderson High,  Eastern Guilford, Lake Norman FFA,  McDowell FFA, Mount Pleasant High, Mount Pleasant Middle School, North Iredell, North Stanly High School, North Wilkes High School,  Orange FFA, Piedmont, R-S Central,  Southwestern Randolph High School, Southwestern Randolph Middle, Surry Central,  Watauga, West Henderson High School and West Wilkes.

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