OSU planning new ag sciences buildings in Wooster, Columbus

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Waterman farm project
An extensive re-envisioning of Waterman Farm, west of the Columbus campus, is in the planning stages. The project could include a new multi-species arena, stalls for temporary housing of livestock for teaching purposes, an undergraduate research lab, an urban agriculture institute and more.(Source: OSU alumni newsletter, March 2016)

WOOSTER, Ohio — Some major construction and renovation projects are being considered within Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences — particularly at the OSU-Wooster campus.

Ron Hendrick, acting dean, said there’s about a $400 million need for projects that would build and renovate animal sciences buildings, laboratories and teaching space. He spoke April 21 during a public meeting of the Wayne Economic Development Council, in Wooster.

Ron Hendrick, speaking about plans for new facilities.
Ron Hendrick, speaking about plans for new facilities.

“We have a lot of infrastructure needs at the university,” Hendrick said, noting that many of the ag college’s buildings are outdated and not well-suited for modern sciences.

Many buildings

He said OSU as a whole has about 1,200 buildings, with more than 500 belonging to the ag college. The college also maintains about 85-90 percent of OSU’s total acreage, Hendrick said.

One project on the Wooster campus is a new $34 million entomology building, that would also provide some private-public space, laboratory and environmental sciences space for the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC), and students of the Agricultural Technical Institute (ATI).

Related: Master plans for OSU CFAES facilities.

Initial designs for that building are finishing up, Hendrick said, and he expects the university could break ground for it in a couple more years. That building would be located near Selby Hall, on the OARDC campus.

Livestock buildings

The livestock and dairy facilities are also expected to see major improvements — though how much and how soon is still being decided.

At a dairy producers’ meeting April 11, Dave Benfield, associate vice president of ag administration and the new director of OSU-Wooster, noted that most of the university’s animal facilites were built in the 1960s to the 1980s, and many “are beyond their lifespan or need major renovation.”

Benfield said the university is in the master planning stage — and that the plans are still open to change — but one of the plans is for new beef facilities in Wooster and Columbus, a new swine facility in Wooster, and combining the two Wooster dairy farms.

Dairy improvements

The university currently operates a dairy farm on the ATI campus that serves students, and a second dairy, known as Krauss Dairy, on the OARDC campus. The two dairies will likely be combined, he said, with a new milking system that matches what students can expect to see in the dairy industry when they graduate.

The current dairy system at ATI is only about six years old, and was donated as a gift, but Benfield said it has been problematic with milkers falling off cows and students getting frustrated.

He said the university is also looking at some changes to its Waterman Dairy facility in Columbus. The Waterman farm has been surrounded by development in recent years, and Benfield said the university is exploring other ideas for the farm, including a multispecies facility and an urban dairy.

As for equine, the college is considering co-locating its horse herd with the herd from Veterinary Medicine, at the Alice Lloyd Finley Memorial Veterinary Research Farm, a 133-acre farm in Madison County.

Working with industry

Benfield said it will be important to work with private industry on the improvements — not only to provide funding but also ideas and innovation.

“When we get to the point of really getting into the planning gear, we’re going to have industry help us move forward, so we move forward in the right direction and the proper way,” Benfield said. “Many of you (businesses) have the most practical applications sometimes.”

The Ohio Cattlemen’s Association board pledged $50,000 in December, toward the construction of a new 31,000 square foot beef facility at the Don Scott Field, in Columbus. That facility would be used for a reproductive physiology lab, arena, offices and beef barn.

Ag careers

The improvements are being planned at a time when ag careers and careers in ag sciences look bright.

Hendrick noted that about 92-94 percent of the university’s ag college graduates are getting jobs at graduation, and college’s student population is increasing.

Across the whole college, about 3,700 students are enrolled, with about 3,200 of those as undergraduates. About 790 students are enrolled at ATI, a leader in two-year degrees in agriculture.

Hendrick said the university will need to add more housing to the Wooster campus as ATI moves forward.

Faculty changes

The projects are being planned at a time when many higher-level faculty in the ag college are in transition. Hendrick will leave OSU in June, to become dean of Michigan State University’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

OSU’s previous ag dean, Bruce McPheron, was named OSU’s interim executive vice president and provost in December, and could potentially be named provost or return to the ag college.

The ATI is currently led by Interim Director Jim Kinder, and a new interim director, Thom Janini, will take over Aug. 1. Also, longtime OARDC director Steve Slack retired in December, which led to Benfield’s new leadership role at OARDC and the current search for Slack’s successor.

Related coverage:

Ohio Cattlemen’s Association banquet touches on industry issues (Jan. 26, 2016).

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