In an earlier time, a farming community would come together to help a neighbor put up a new barn.
Timber by timber, the people would erect the new structure by hand to support a local farmer in need.
Seymour Community School Corp. is currently experiencing somewhat of a modern-day barn raising.
Last week, AML Inc. construction workers, wearing hard hats instead of straw hats, began putting up the walls for Seymour High School’s new agriculture science and research farm facility in Freeman Field.
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A big crane was brought in, replacing hammers, nails and wooden beams, to lift and set the concrete walls into place.
It is an exciting process for agriculture teacher and FFA adviser Jeanna Eppley and her students to witness.
“It’s great to see it really taking shape now,” Eppley said. “There’s an even greater level of excitement for those students who have been a part of this and have heard us talking about it for a couple of years now because they know it’s really happening.”
Construction will continue this spring into summer with an Aug. 1 deadline for completion so it is ready to use for the 2017-18 school year.
Dave Stark, director of facilities and grounds for Seymour Community School Corp., said the project is coming along and is on schedule despite several rainy days.
“They will be completing the wall and roof structure to close the building in and then putting in a concrete floor and other interior systems,” Stark said.
The facility has a price tag of nearly $2 million and is being paid for through the corporation’s capital projects fund.
Originally, the project was supposed to have been completed by the end of 2016 but was delayed after only one bid — $1 million higher than anticipated — was submitted.
The first phase of the ag science and research farm includes a 12,000-square-foot one-story building that will house a large machinery and equipment training and shop area, a food science lab, a metals lab to incorporate welding, a classroom for animal science, restrooms, an office, storage and a large parking area.
“This will be a very nice ag science facility that will allow for the latest technology and classroom experiences for our students,” Stark said.
Due to budget restraints, some of the things needed to equip the facility for use were not included in the project’s base bid, including installation of welding booths and kitchen appliances.
“We are working on ways to get those things back into the final project, so some of it might be spread out,” Eppley said. “Once we see how the classes are going to fill out, then we will budget for those items or find other resources to get that needed equipment.”
A second phase of the project, if approved, would add a greenhouse and aquaculture lab, a lecture/presentation hall and additional labs and classrooms in the future.
The facility is being built on a five-acre site owned by the school corporation along Fourth and F avenues within Freeman Field Industrial Park. The property has been used as part of the school farm since 1948.
The ag facility has the potential to put Seymour at the forefront statewide of preparing and training students for careers in the agriculture industry, school officials said.
Although the number of farmers in Jackson County is dwindling, the number of jobs available in ag-related fields, including ag science, business, technology and mechanics, is on the rise, and students with an education and training in agriculture are in high demand, Eppley said.
“Over the past couple of years, we have come a long way in rebranding agriculture in Jackson County,” she said. “The farming aspect is important yes, but service and support in the ag field is really where there is a huge need for trained individuals.”
The new facility will allow Seymour to offer advanced courses in food science, plants and soils and landscape management along with courses in agriculture power, structure and technology and sustainable energy alternatives.
“I’m really excited to have our agronomy-based classes, like plant and soil science, on the farm so students can practice the whole process hands-on,” Eppley said.
Other courses that could be offered include diesel service technology, welding technology and precision machining.
“We’re still preparing the curriculum for what it’s going to look like next year and what we want to see in the future,” Eppley said.
The farm also would be used for internships, FFA functions and field trips and to host elementary school Ag Days.
But local schools wouldn’t be the only ones to use and benefit from the facility.
Besides increasing student opportunities, the farm has the potential to become a magnet facility for agribusiness industries in Seymour and Jackson County, such as Premier Ag, Kova Fertilizer, Jacobi Sales, The Andersons and Rose Acre Farms.
Jackson County farmers would be able to use the site throughout the year to learn about new technologies and innovations through ag software and technology demonstrations, equipment/machinery demonstrations, field days, farm safety sessions, ag management and financial strategy meetings and adult education courses and technical certifications.
“We really want to bring the community to this facility for education and workshops and demonstrations of equipment,” Eppley said. “I want it to be a facility that everyone can use and receive value from.”
She expects the facility to serve other needs besides just agriculture.
“I think this will stretch beyond agriculture to where we can offer training for different industries, too,” she said. “We will be looking at regional-based workshops and activities that will bring people in from outside the county.”