MASSILLON, Ohio – Coalition. Shared vision. Unique relationship. Partners.
The words weren’t empty, but rang with sincerity as Stark County agricultural agency staffers dedicated their new home Oct. 27.
A long time in the works, the new Stark USDA Service Center is located just north of U.S. Route 30 at 2650 Richville Dr. S.E., Massillon.
Under one roof. It houses branches of the USDA’s Farm Service Agency, Rural Development, and Natural Resources Conservation Service; as well as the Stark Soil and Water Conservation District, Ohio State University Extension, and three individuals from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Soil and Water Conservation.
The center serves as the county offices for all of the individual agencies except for Rural Development, which moved its northeast Ohio area office from Wooster to Massillon.
The building is owned by Charles Webster and built to the agencies’ specifications. The individual agencies lease their own office space.
Teamwork. Massillon Mayor Francis Cicchinelli Jr. helped mold the deal that landed the service center in his backyard.
“This is the result of a lot of people working very hard, both in the public and private sector,” Cicchinelli said during the dedication ceremony.
That partnership was echoed by Jill Eversole Nolan, OSU Extension regional director of operations for north central Ohio.
“We have many of the same missions and visions,” Nolan said. “It’s nice to be housed under one roof.”
Also adding comments were David Hanselmann, chief of the Ohio Division of Soil and Water Conservation; Randall Hunt, state director for the USDA Rural Development; Larry Adams, state director for USDA Farm Service Agency; and Bob Hendershot, acting state conservationist for USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Those attending also mirrored the mix, as a crowd of roughly 150 public officials, business leaders, extension volunteers and local board members from the USDA agencies toured the building.
U.S. Rep. Ralph Regula, who owns a farm in Stark County, also attended and helped cut the ribbon to dedicate the new building.
Putting it together. Barb Stoll, Stark County executive director for USDA’s Farm Service Agency, was the project’s point person.
“It’s been a long road,” Stoll admitted. “We’ve had all sorts of things happen.”
Earlier this year, for example, the new facility flooded and had to be restored and checked for mold.
“But we think we have a state-of-the-art service center,” Stoll added, “and we have a bigger mission of serving agricultural and rural America.”
Phenology garden. Outdoors, the building site includes a learning laboratory in the form of OSU Extension’s “phenology garden.”
Phenology is the study of annual cycles of plants and animals and how they respond to seasonal changes. Phenologists record and compare dates of various natural events, such as the emergence of a certain insect or plant budding.
The garden is one of 27 identical gardens planted in a statewide project to study and demonstrate the concept of phenology.
Sixteen identical plants have been planted at each site and the natural sequence of events will be tracked for the next five years.
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