OCCHS ag center gets financial boost

OCCHS ag center gets financial boost
By KEVIN BOWDEN
Staff Reporter
Students at Obion County Central High School have been provided a unique new Ag Learning Center courtesy of a federal/state/local partnership that came up with the $300,000 for the new facility.
Congressman Stephen Fincher was one of a large group of officials who attended a formal check presentation ceremony Thursday afternoon at OCCHS.
Bobby Goode, state director of the U.S. Depart-ment of Agriculture, and state Commissioner of Agriculture Julius Johnson were on hand to present two oversized checks totaling $200,000 that helped finance the construction of the $300,000 Ag Learning Center.
“The facilities are situated to serve Obion County Central High School in Troy and will focus on education in horticulture, landscaping, greenhouse management, nursery production, turf and grass management and improvement, floriculture and the production and marketing of alternative agriculture crops,” Fincher said.
The new Ag Learning Center has been built behind OCCHS on the hill near the school’s baseball field. Ag instructor Stuart Watson said work on the facility began this past summer and was completed in time for this school year. The facility has a classroom, meeting area, kitchen, storage facility and bathrooms as well as a new greenhouse. He said about 140 students at OCCHS are involved in the ag program and are using the facility.
“Farmers and other agriculture-related businesses create jobs that are based on our agricultural assets and heritage,” Goode said Thursday. “Investment of time and money from all the partners in this facility provide tools for the next generation to build a healthy, diversified local economy.”
Goode was on hand at the school Thursday to turn over a $50,000 check from his state agency, while Johnson handed over a $150,000 check from the state. Also involved in the ambitious school project was a group of 21 local contributors, all of whom are involved in agriculture and recognize its importance to the local economy. The group of local investors came up with more than $30,000 for the center and the school system financed the remainder of the cost of the facility.
The OCCHS Ag Learning Center is also open to the public, according to Watson.
“This is actually a community learning center,” Watson told The Messenger Thursday. “We want to encourage the use of the facility.”
During his remarks at the program, Obion County Mayor Benny McGuire pointed out the importance of agriculture in Obion County by stating 30 percent of all the money circulated in the county is ag related. Agriculture is the state’s largest industry and accounts for nearly $3 billion in farm income annually.
“It is our desire that one result of this investment in our high school will be that our students with an interest in agriculture will be prepared with the foundation they need to stay in Tennessee after graduation and continue the rich tradition of agriculture in Obion County,” Obion County Director of Schools David Huss said. “Without the support of those in attendance today, these improvements would not have been possible.”
Thursday’s ceremony was coordinated as a way to recognize all those who contributed to the financing of the new Ag Learning Center, but it was a group of six Future Farmers of America students who stood out during the program. They and their fellow students are the ones who will benefit from the new horticulture center.
The community will also benefit from the facility as it is offered for community educational events as well as a demonstration and training center for pesticide workshops.
Published in The Messenger 1.6.12

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