USDA official inspects OARDC storm damage, recovery continues

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WOOSTER, Ohio — Officials continue to clean, assess and rebuild at Ohio State University’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster, Ohio, more than 40 days after an EF-2 tornado caused extensive damage.

On Oct. 28, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan toured the grounds of the campus, alongside U.S. Rep. John Boccieri, D-Alliance.

Improvements continue

Damaged and uprooted trees mostly have been removed, windows fixed and employees are mostly back to work, but overcoming the devastation will take years. Shattered glass remained visible from the greenhouses, where research and student projects were believed to be destroyed.

“We know that people have lost experiments, they’ve lost generations of information,” said OARDC Director Steve Slack.

Merrigan, who has been an agricultural professor at Tufts University, said she understands the importance of the loss, and what it means to those involved.

“It is with some sadness that I come and tour what happened here with the storm,” she said. “Luckily, no loss of life, but loss of a lot of key research facilities, equipment, some of the wonderful trees in the (Secrest) arboretum.”

Officials said the loss of research, including projects graduate students were completing for their dissertations, is “priceless.”

Next steps

Merrigan said the campus will need to assess its insurance needs, and if government funding is to come, it will need to be through decisions of Congress and the Obama Administration.

She called OARDC “one of the leading Universities in our country working on agriculture, and thereby one of the leading in the world.”

Boccieri said it’s an important place because of the connections it forges with researchers and private industry — a focus of the last several years with projects in bioenergy and renewables.

“This is where the future jobs of Ohio and our partnership with agriculture and industry meet,” he said.

As badly hit as the campus was, Slack said he’s optimistic that the University and campus will “reconfigure” in a way that is more efficient and better equipped for current research demands.

“We really want to come out of this bigger and stronger than we were before,” he said.

Stay informed

For a detailed list of improvements since the Sept. 16 tornado, visit www.oardc.ohio-state.edu, and follow the tornado recovery update information.

Multiple videos and press releases have been posted, as well as ways to contribute financial support.

Learn more about the Secrest Arboretum recovery fund at secrestarboretum.osu.edu.

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Chris Kick lives in Wooster, Ohio. An American FFA Degree recipient, he holds a bachelor’s in creative writing from Ashland University. He spends his free time on his grandparents’ farms in Wayne and Holmes counties.

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