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Ag Ed Center honors supporters

November 18, 1996

By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

Staff Writer

Williamsport-area dairy farmer Galen Long feels a special attachment to the Washington County Agriculture Education Center.

"It's almost a place where we can call home, as far as the agricultural community is concerned," said Long, who donated both time and money to help get the project off the ground for the sake of his children and other 4-H'ers.

Long - and the many other individuals, organizations and businesses that pitched in to make the center a reality - were honored Sunday with a reception at the center, located on Md. 65, seven miles south of Interstate 70.

The event also doubled as the kick-off for a campaign to raise $350,000 by May 1, 1997, in order to obtain a state matching grant for up to the same amount for the project.

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"We have much to be grateful for," John Staub, chairman of the Agriculture Education Center board of directors, told the more than 150 people in attendance.

The 54-acre facility - home to the county's annual Ag Expo - has come a long way since construction began 18 months ago, Staub said.

It now features two winterized multi-purpose buildings, two livestock pole barns, a milking parlor, a tractor-pull track and jousting area, a horse show arena and a handicapped-accessible picnic area.

But it will take a lot more money to complete the next three phases of construction planned for fiscal years 1997, 1998 and 1999, he said.

Future development plans include a farm or rural heritage museum, envisioned as a series of buildings where antique farm equipment would be displayed and demonstrated, Staub said.

It would be open year-round and marketed as an attraction for visitors to Antietam National Battlefield as well as local folks, he said.

Considering the dominant role agriculture has played and continues to play in Washington County, it's important to preserve that facet of the area's history, said Washington County Commissioner R. Lee Downey, one of several speakers at the reception.

"I think with this great agricultural heritage we have, we definitely need a farm museum," Downey said. "As time goes on, it's going to be more and more difficult to get this kind of equipment for a museum."

The state matching grant provides an opportunity for funding the project, which should be supported by the entire community, he said.

"Every one of us is affected by agriculture in some way," Downey said.

So far, about $54,000 has been raised toward the $350,000 goal, said campaign organizer Dick Schukraft.

About $34,000 of that was donated Sunday, said Schukraft, who is optimistic that the entire goal will be reached by May 1.

A combination of government grants and contributions from individuals, groups and businesses provided $657,740 to develop the facility to its current level, he said.

It would be a shame not to take advantage of the full $350,000 grant, said beef farmer Bill Poffenberger, who has donated both money and service on the Ag Ed Center's board of directors.

"Why take part of the pie when you could get all?" asked Poffenberger, who signed on to the project because of his support for the county's 4-H program.

The program is for all of the county's youth, ages 9 to 18, not just farm kids, Poffenberger said.

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