Barren aims to boost its agricultural future

Posted: Saturday, September 15, 2012 2:00 am

By CHUCK MASON The Daily News

Two separate efforts to bring better educational options to Barren County students who want to study agri-business and related disciplines are progressing. One of those efforts, a new ag center, is being partially financed with money that speaks to Barren County’s agricultural past – tobacco settlement funds – while the project is expected to benefit the county’s agricultural future.

The second effort adds to the growing relationship between Western Kentucky University and Barren County. WKU has a branch campus in Glasgow, headed by director Sally Ray.

Barren County High School will consummate an agreement with WKU on Thursday to create the Capstone Scholars Program to provide up to 19 college semester hours of dual credit in the areas of agriculture and chemistry, said Bo Matthews, Barren County Schools superintendent.

The signing by WKU President Gary Ransdell will be in a noon program at Barren County High School. The program is expected to last until 2:30 p.m. and include agriculture-related demonstrations, Matthews said.

“This will raise the level of opportunity for our high school students,” Matthews said. “This will also make our graduates of Barren County High School more competitive in the scholarship area.”

There are 5,000 students in Barren County schools and 1,475 of them are at Barren County High School. About 400 of those are involved in agriculture course work.

Barren County has one of the largest Future Farmers of America programs in Kentucky, and half of the FFA students who are involved go on to attend college.

This second WKU Capstone Scholars Program will be with the Odgen College of Science and Engineering.

The first WKU Capstone Program began with Fort Thomas Highlands High School in November 2010 and that partnership is with WKU’s Potter College of Arts and Letters.

On another front, work continues to develop the $3.1 million Barren County Regional Agricultural Exposition Center off Highway 90. A 16-page report provided by Matthews in an email details the project.

“Our vision is that of a facility to showcase the rich agricultural heritage of Barren and surrounding counties,” the proposal notes.

“These are really exciting times for agriculture in Barren County,” Matthews said. The ag center will be located between Glasgow and Cave City, about 2.2 miles from the new Veterans Outer Loop and five miles from Exit 53 off Interstate 65 in Cave City. Harry King Road is the current access point to the site, he said.

“This is dead in the center between Louisville and Nashville. It is a venue from which our young people will benefit,” he said. There has been a commitment from the state of Kentucky Tobacco Settlement Group to match dollar-for-dollar local monies collected for the project,” the superintendent said. Organizers are now talking to the local Tobacco Settlement Group for possible funding. The idea is to build the project in phases.

The first phase is construction of a 200-foot by 270-foot covered arena, according to the proposal. The second phase calls for construction of classrooms, concessions, bathrooms and shower houses. The third phase will consist of enclosing the main arena with the addition of heating and air on the seating sections, the proposal notes.

Matthews said the Barren County Board of Education is providing the 90 acres of land, a $120,000 value. The board of education is working with the Glasgow/Barren County Industrial Development Economic Authority, the proposal noted.

The first phase is expected to cost $1,260,000, with the arena bearing a $1,200,000 price tag. A tractor and equipment add $40,000 to the cost, with another $20,000 estimated in miscellaneous expenses, the proposal dated Aug. 27 noted.

The second phase is expected to cost $856,000. The school district money will finance that portion of the project, Matthews said.

The third phase is expected to cost $1,000,000, the proposal noted. The enclosure will cost $490,000, the stall barns an additional $430,000 and the electric-water sites $50,000.

That would place the total cost of the phased-in project at $3,116,000, the proposal noted.

Calculations in the proposal that assume that a dollar invested in the project will turn over two times in the local economy, show estimated total economic impact of $3,163,200.

The ag center project follows the development a dozen years ago of the 24,000-square-foot Cave City Convention Center.

According to the report, agriculture plays a major role in Barren County’s economy. Based on 2007 agricultural statistics, Barren County is first in cattle, beef cows, dairy cows, alfalfa production, other hay production and tobacco production in Kentucky.

More than 2,000 students are expected to benefit from the ag center, the proposal noted.



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