cornhole tournament

Pitchin’ In For A Sustainable Future

The inaugural Noble Research Institute cornhole tournament fundraiser raised more than $50,000 to revitalize grazing lands.

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A Fast-approaching downpour failed to dampen the community’s outpouring of support for Noble Research Institute’s inaugural cornhole tournament fundraiser this summer. Even amid the inclement weather, 45 teams assembled in Ardmore, Oklahoma, on June 12 to help raise more than $50,000 to support the revitalization of our nation’s grazing lands.

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Originally dubbed “Pitchin’ in the Pasture,” the fundraiser was supposed to be held in a pasture near the Noble Research Institute but, as the weather forecast turned more foreboding, the decision was made to move the event indoors.  It was a powerful reminder of the fact that weather is an integral, and often fickle, part of a farmer’s and rancher’s way of life.

Presenting Pitchin’ In The Pasture

teams compete in cornhole
Form and focus at work during Noble’s cornhole tournament fundraiser event.

Now, with the event safely staged inside, it was time for the bags to fly. At the center of the tournament was charitable community leader Nabholz, which brought six enthusiastic teams to the competition as the top sponsor. 

According to Justin Woolverton, Nabholz executive vice president of operations, Nabholz chose to be the presenting sponsor of the cornhole tournament because it seeks to align with organizations dedicated to community improvement through collaboration. Nabholz executives recognize that spirit in Noble, because their own company has spent 75 years operating under its mission: Grow Our People. Serve Our Clients. Build Our Communities.

While Nabholz is an innovative construction company, the last portion of its mission doesn’t refer to actual buildings.

“The ‘build our community’ piece of that mission statement really has nothing to do with the physical buildings. It’s about sharing our blessings and giving back to the places that provide for us, whether through volunteer opportunities or financial contributions,” Woolverton says. “We believe in giving back to those that bless us.”

As Woolverton points out, Nabholz seeks and pursues community partners, whether they’re looking for clientele or philanthropic causes to support. Noble serves as both. Nabholz and the Noble Research Institute have collaborated on various construction projects for more than five years. Expanding the relationship to include a philanthropic partnership seemed a natural next step and aligned with Nabholz’ commitment to elevating the communities where they live and work. 

“I think Noble’s mission is broadly impactful. The work they do around soil and regenerative agriculture impacts everybody — everybody eats food, breathes the air and drinks water,” Woolverton says. “With the ever-increasing population and the decreasing amount of available farmland the world faces, it’s a very important mission.”

The Noble Research Institute staff are incredibly grateful for the community’s support of this event and the healthy soil movement. With generous partners, like Nabholz, interested in a sustainable future, we can transform our grazing lands and unleash the numerous benefits of healthy soil such as cleaner water, increased food security, enhanced wildlife habitat and carbon sequestration to mitigate climate variability.

“This highlights the importance of partnership,” says Shannon Steele, officer of advancement operations and outreach for Noble. “What we’re doing is bigger than all of us. Those partnerships are so important, because it will take everybody to make this big change.”  

team celebration
Cornhole tournament competitors react after their tosses.

Playing And Growing Together  

Participants of “Pitchin’ in the Pasture” came as competitors and supporters but left as partners in revitalizing America’s grazing lands.

Strangers upon arrival, players rubbed elbows, congratulated one another on a good shot and, most importantly, learned together how healthy soil is imperative for a more sustainable and regenerative future. This was precisely what the organizers had hoped. 

“The whole point was to bring organizations together so you can share your message and demonstrate how your work affects people’s daily lives,” Steele says. “In the end, participants were able to share in our mission.”

When the metaphorical dust cleared, the Dollar General Distribution Company team reigned supreme. Winning team members posed with custom belt buckles adorned with the “Pitchin’ in the Pasture” insignia. Once the winning photos were taken and the milling crowd began to thin, Steele reflected on the inaugural event and what it meant to Noble’s mission. 

“All of these different corporations see the importance in giving back and bringing people together and making their community better,” she says. “We are thankful that their generosity has expanded to include Noble and our goal of working with ranchers to improve the soil for the betterment of us all.”  

cornhole winners
Noble Research Institute CEO Steve Rhines, center, with Aaron Sims, left, and Colt Riddle, right, of Dollar General Distribution Company. The teammates are the 2023 champions of “Pitchin’ in the Pasture,” Noble’s first cornhole tournament fundraiser.

See You Next Year

Hoping to build on the success of the inaugural event, the advancement team has already begun working on the second annual cornhole tournament. First on the list, exploring ways to make the event even more collaborative and creative. 

Simultaneously, enthusiasm for the event continues in the community and sponsors have already started to reach out about next year’s event. 

According to Woolverton, Nabholz served as the presenting sponsor this year because Noble manages the funds they raise with integrity. 

“We look for nonprofits that we believe are good stewards of their donors’ money, operate with a high level of integrity and are truly making an impact in the communities where we work and live,” he says.

In addition to honoring the generosity of our philanthropic partners, Noble seeks to provide a relaxed, meaningful and enjoyable experience for event sponsors and participants. While they laugh and compete, they can play a role in furthering Noble’s mission to improve the health of the soil and support the ranchers that steward it. “Agriculture is present in our daily lives,” Steele says. “It’s not just food; it’s fiber, your clothes, everything. Agriculture literally touches everything and everyone.”

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Katie Miller

Katie Miller is a freelance writer residing in Lebanon, Indiana. She holds a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism and a minor in animal science from the University of Missouri. When she’s not writing, Katie enjoys spending time with her husband and two cattle dogs, driving ponies or visiting her family’s cow-calf operation in central Missouri.

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