09/13/17 — University is awarded $180K from state for classrooms

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University is awarded $180K from state for classrooms

By Steve Herring
Published in News on September 13, 2017 5:50 AM


Rep. Jimmy Dixon, second from left, looks over plans for the new classroom/laboratory building UMO's Kornegay Farm as Joe Scott, Mayor Ray McDonald Sr., Tim Warren and Dr. Sandy Maddox look on.

MOUNT OLIVE -- Against a background of tractors and farm implements, Rep. Jimmy Dixon Tuesday announced $180,000 in state funding for the University of Mount Olive.

The money will go toward construction of an 8,600-square-foot classroom/laboratory building on the university's Kornegay Research Farm.

It will be a standard metal building with a small shop area, four classrooms, two laboratories and a couple of offices.

Construction could start by December since the funding Dixon was able to secure must be spent by next October, said Dr. Sandy Maddox, the university's division chair of agriculture and director of the Lois G. Britt Agribusiness Center.

Maddox said she hopes the building will be ready for students by the fall 2018 semester.

"It is going to offer us the opportunity to expand our degree program offerings," she said. "We will be able to implement an animal science degree. We now have a concentration in animal science, but we are looking forward to having an animal science degree, an agronomy degree.

"The hands-on learning opportunities -- so many of the students that we have don't come from a farm background anymore. It gives them, whether they are going into the classroom or whether they are going out and working in an agribusiness, it gives them credibility when they have actually farmed."

That is an experience they will have to better understand what production agriculture is, even though they may not become a farmer, Maddox said.

The intent is to do some undergraduate research at the farm, too, Maddox said.

She said she has already talked to some of the commodity groups that are interested in doing some research plots at the farm.

The George R. Kornegay family donated the 70-acre farm to the university.

University and town officials and students gathered for the announcement under a large equipment shed on the farm located about seven miles southeast of Mount Olive on Garners Chapel Road.

Dixon called the deafening sound of a heavy rain on the she'd metal roof an appropriate reminder that those interested in agriculture know how to deal with adversity.

Dixon, who is known for his folksy comments, said he wanted to talk about what originally was a statement for people doing missionary work around the world.

"The statement is simply this, you can count the seeds in an apple, but you cannot count the apples in a seed," he said. "So what we are doing here this morning, with this appropriation from the General Assembly, is hopefully continuing planting a seed that the Kornegay family, the University of Mount Olive and other people have started in this wonderful area of agriculture.

"I look forward to trying to count the apples from the seed that we are planting here today."

Dixon said Maddox and her group had been invited to a House Agriculture Committee session. Several of her students also attended.

They were asked to speak in front of the committee of which Dixon is one of the chairmen.

"They blew those people out of the water," he said. "These kids here just showed up so well and what was so wonderful is that we had six or seven people from N.C. State University sitting in the audience.

"This group of young people here represents a magnificent future in agriculture. This $180,000 which is not a lot, but it is not insignificant amount either. Once these kids left up there that day, I made up my mind, if there was anyway in the budget that I could legitimately get some funds for this project, that I would."

The money is coming through the Department of Commerce through Rural and Economic Development, he said.

It is actually for some revitalization funds, and "we are trying to do is revitalize agriculture," he said.

Dixon said he contacted Mount Olive Mayor Ray McDonald Sr. and Mayor Pro Tem Joe Scott to ask if the town would allow the money to come to the town and then filter through to the university.

They agreed and were very happy for it, he said.

The money should be available within the next 60 days, he said.

"We are really focused on hands-on learning opportunities for our students," Maddox said. "With the dedication of the farm, now we will have a place where we can hold classrooms and have laboratories and actually bring (students) to a site where hands-on learning can occur."

The $180,000 will not cover the complete cost of the project.

The university is looking for other funding and at local agribusinesses to see if they would be willing to contribute to the project.

The project is still being designed, and Maddox said she did not yet have a total cost projection.

The hope is to manage a lot of the farm operations with student workers, Maddox said.

"It is going to be their farm," she said.

The plan is to market all of the products that will be produced on the farm, Maddox said.

There will be up to seven acres of pasture for sheep and goats, and an animal handling area to manage them.

Four acres will be devoted to horticulture and a commodity area.

There will be production agriculture, too, Maddox said.