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Wood County plans one-stop for agriculture

BOWLING GREEN - Wood County is moving ahead with plans to bring its agriculture-related agencies under one roof.

County commissioners say they want the building to be not only a service but a tribute to the agricultural community.

“We don't want anything we can't afford but we also are aware that this will be a very visible facility that's going to complement agriculture,” Commissioner Alvie Perkins said yesterday. “Wood County's been No. 1 in the production of tomatoes, beans, and corns at different times over the years. We're worthy of a nice facility.”

While commissioners have offered to have the center built on land the county owns along I-75 between Gypsy Lane and Napoleon Road, just how the building will be paid for and how much commissioners can pay for it are unknown. “We want this to be a one-stop shop for all agricultural agencies, but we want to make sure it's affordable for them to come live there,” said Jim Carter, chairman of the commissioners.

Yesterday, commissioners met with architects and designers from the Collaborative, Inc., of Toledo, which it hired last month to do the initial design of the building at a cost of $35,000.

They tossed around ideas for the agriculture center with three of the men who have been campaigning for the facility: Bernie Scott, a retired agriculture education teacher from Otsego High School; Joe Hirzel of Hirzel Canning Co., and Dick Bostdorff, a local greenhouse owner.

Among the ideas expressed were:

  • The center should not be a sprawling complex that consumes more land than necessary, but perhaps a two-story building.

    “Even though we have 70 acres of land, we're not interested in using all 70 acres for some sprawled-out complex,” Mr. Carter said. “We need to walk the talk, and we keep talking about preserving farmland.”

  • The center should be comfortable to visitors in suits as well as those coming in from the field in overalls and workboots.

  • The center needs to be efficient yet large enough to accomodate farm-related organizations that decide to move in once they see the facility and how it operates. It could include a conference center as well as meeting and classroom space.

  • Experimental materials - some agricultural-based - could be used inside, such as countertops made of wheat and soy or carpet made of corn.

    While some envisioned a traditional farm-looking complex with a barn and silo, Mr. Hirzel expressed caution about that concept. He said there is a need to attract young people to agriculture and to focus on technology and sustainability. “Agriculture has been in the shadows for the last 50 years, so hopefully this facility can emphasize where agriculture is going in the future,” he said.

    Mr. Scott suggested the center look like a farmstead built in the late 1940s or early 1950s on the outside but “very high-tech inside.”

    Paul Hollenbeck, an architect with the Collaborative, said he anticipates the design team spending the next 90 to 100 days developing a plan for what the center will look like, where it will be situated, and the cost of construction and operation.

    Mr. Carter said he would like to see that plan used to solicit private funds for the center. Commissioners have said the building would have to be funded in part with contributions.

    Officials made plans to meet later this month with representatives of the agencies interested in moving into the agriculture center to hear their ideas for the building.

    Those include the Ohio State University Cooperative Extension Service, the Agricultural Business Enhancement Center, Ag Credit Services, Wood County Soil and Water Conservation District, and the Farm Services Administration.

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