The dream for a Madison County Agricultural Education Center is still very much alive.
“With a project this complex, there may be periods that on the surface not much appears to be happening, but there is always behind the scenes activity,” said Ag Center Board member Thomas Harrell. “A lot of folks are involved and busy. We are steadily moving forward.”
County ag leaders aim to provide a venue off Hope Thompson Lane in Danielsville across from the high school to enhance educational opportunities for students and facilitate continuing adult education.
“Tangible community support has been incredible,” said Ag Center Board Chairman Terry Chandler. “Since organizing the non-profit structure, the ideal property adjacent to the high school was located and purchased, plans and goals were established, the mammoth grading-engineering-site preparation work has been completed, the initial joint parking is in use, and water sources are secured. To date, over $760,000 of work has been completed, all made possible by the contributions of partners in our community. We are now ready to press toward construction.”
Madison County Young Farmer Advisor and Ag Center Director Cindy Jones offered more insight into recent activity.
“Several of us involved in the project have also been working with our board of education and school administration in developing and planning the concepts for our upcoming College and Career Academy,” said Jones. “The two are completely separate, but both offer great benefits to our students. The C&C Academy will be part of the new high school, offering new opportunities in work-place readiness in areas like mechanics, welding and metal fabrication, medical and culinary fields. This includes partnership with Athens Technical College for other areas as well. The Madison County Ag Center’s design is to fill in gaps that conventional classroom models leave. Our goal is to offer hands-on learning venues to excite our students about learning, and encourage and prepare them to move forward in their education. The Center will provide even more power to the C & C Academy package! We are striving to prepare our next generation of community and industry leaders.”
Jones said some of the ag community’s efforts were diverted to the C&C Academy, as leaders worked to secure a $3.65 million grant for the regional program. That grant was ultimately awarded to Madison County.
“We are now re-focusing on the ag center and its completion,” said Jones. “Our community ultimately will be the big winner.”
Local farmer and community leader David Echols is heading the efforts to secure the funding needed to complete the center. “The total project cost is projected to be $2.6 million,” said Echols. “We are currently about 30 percent of the way to the total goal. Our board of directors has stated that once we reach the 50-percent mark, construction will begin. The primary education center, which will house a classroom/lab, livestock teaching facilities, meeting and conference rooms, kitchen, and arena, will be the first step. We are anxious to get that phase completed so instruction and community use can begin. We want everyone to have the opportunity to partner with us and be part of this great venture for our county and region.”
“The exciting news is that all the work so far has been without fund raising, just interested partners stepping forward to lend support,” David added. “We are now ready to invite everyone to join in. More good news is that several more supporters are standing by to offer their help and expertise once the main structure is erected. We will be offering opportunities for naming of the complex and several of its components.”
Director Al Stone invites everyone to come by and view the site at 175 Hope Thompson Lane. “The grading job is phenomenal, site securing is completed, perimeter landscaping is growing, and the joint-parking lot is as professional as you will find anywhere. The location is perfect for daily use by the students and faculty and access for the community could not be more convenient.”
There is no doubt these community leaders are serious about making this dream a reality for our community and students. Be watching for your opportunity to join in and be part of this project. To learn more contact David Echols (706) 540-6517, Cindy Jones (706) 654-8252, or Terry Chandler (706) 338-6341.