State Tech outlines plan for new Ag Demonstration Center

By Neal A. Johnson, UD Editor
Posted 6/19/24

LINN — State Tech provided plans for the new Ag Demonstration Center at a public hearing on Monday, June 10. However, no one from the public attended.

VP of Finance Jenny Jacobs noted that …

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State Tech outlines plan for new Ag Demonstration Center


LINN — State Tech provided plans for the new Ag Demonstration Center at a public hearing on Monday, June 10. However, no one from the public attended.

VP of Finance Jenny Jacobs noted that the $7 million project will be completed on 35 acres on the northwest side of campus. The land was acquired in April 2023 as part of a swap with Osage Ambulances.

Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer’s committee was vital in pushing through a Congressionally-Directed Spending Award totaling $3 million through the USDA’s Rural Facilities program. Another $4 million has been appropriated in FY 25 through the Missouri Excels (MoExcels) program.

Jacobs noted that the project is likely to exceed the $7 million estimate. State Tech is required to provide a 20% match on the federal award, and the total funding will be added to the state appropriation. The college will use unspecified resources to cover any amount beyond federal and state funding.

“Any time you work directly with federal awards, there are a lot of hoops to jump through,” said Jacobs. “We have completed the preliminary architectural and environmental reviews. We are working with the architect and including language in the architectural contract and the bid documents.”

The environmental review ensured the new facility would not disturb the soil, endanger a live habitat or species, or cause any water contamination. The review also determined whether special permits would be needed, though in this case, none are required.

Three Native American tribes with a presence in the area had until June 10 to request a review. State Tech President Dr. Shawn Strong noted there had been no request, though others have conducted reviews in the past.

A small burial area had been identified previously, and that area is protected by fencing. “Google Maps makes it look like the building will be right on top of the cemetery, but that’s wrong,” said Dr. Strong.

USDA’s representative provided the language to include in the architectural contract and the bid documents. “Once those are approved by USDA, they will be going out for bid,” said Jacobs.

Dr. Strong said that in a perfect world, funding would be spent by June 15, 2025. However, with a federal award, the landscape changed. “We’re having to take a few steps back before we can move forward,” he said, adding that bids should go out in the next week or two.

The Agriculture Demonstration Center will include classrooms, a livestock arena, wet and dry labs, and a food processing lab.

The livestock arena will be flanked by two lecture halls facing each other, with a removable door in the middle. That door can be raised to allow students and visitors in both seating areas to view the arena. “When we open that middle door, it’ll look like a sale barn with seating for 200,” Dr. Strong noted. “If we have FFA or 4-H kids in there, we have a removable fence that can be reconfigured so we can bring animals through for classes.

Large-screen monitors can be used in one or both lecture halls when the dividing wall is down.

Two overhead doors go out into animal pens. A raised deck will allow people to see the nearby farm where cattle will be raised. At this time, Dr. Strong said the college is focused on cattle on the Morton and Herndon Hills properties near where the new building is being constructed. “We plan to maintain the tree line,” Dr. Strong added. “We’re not looking to change anything in that regard.”

Students will learn how to process animals, but animals will not be killed on site. “We won’t have students actually killing animals on campus,” said Dr. Strong. “We will have whole or partial animals for processing.”

A common kitchen will be in the facility to accommodate meat processing, and labs will be equipped to handle virtually any instruction.

The building will also have a 3,000 SF area that can be developed for expansion.

Dr. Strong believes if all went perfectly, the project would take a year to complete. However, he thinks it will likely be done in 2026.

The project is part of the Agriculture Operations degree program, which has two options: Ag Business and Ag Production. As of June 10, 33 students were enrolled in the former, while the latter had 11.

Dr. Strong believes the program will grow quickly. “We have a first and second cohort already,” he said, explaining each cohort has 25 students. “I think we have enough interest to enroll 400 students in the program.”

State Tech joins a handful of two-year institutions to offer Agriculture Operations to its curriculum. Dr. Strong believes it’s a growing trend, especially in Missouri, which is driven largely by agriculture. “This is a good marriage between agriculture and technology,” he added. “One of the reasons this is all coming together so well is because of the trade we made to acquire the land. Everything fell into place at the right time.”

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