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Ag Center drive set to kick off

November 02, 2000

Ag Center drive set to kick off



By STACEY DANZUSO / Staff Writer, Chambersburg


CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - In an attempt to create "one-stop shopping" for local residents, a $2.5 million capital campaign has begun to establish the Franklin County Agricultural Center.

The center would bring under one roof as many as five agricultural-centered 0agencies, including the Penn State Cooperative Extension offices, the Franklin County Conservation District and likely the Franklin County Farm Bureau, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Farm Service Agency.

Those five agencies are currently scattered among three locations in Chambersburg.

"The bottom line is we need a facility we can function from and makes us more accessible to the public," said Robert Kessler, director of the Penn State Cooperative Extension.

Kessler said parking at the existing facility on Franklin Farm Lane is always difficult and it is difficult to accommodate all the programs that could be offered.

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On Wednesday, composting buckets for participants in a composting class clogged the entrance to the building.

The Franklin County Commissioners have agreed to donate 5 acres on Franklin Farm Road and to provide for the maintenance of the future buildings and grounds, said Commissioner G. Warren Elliott.

Plans for the center include a two-story building that would house offices, a technology lab, an agriculture museum and visitors center. Renovating an historic barn built in 1859 on the property for use by 4-H to teach agriculture to school groups and camps would also be funded by the $2.5 million.

"We want to preserve our agricultural history. Often we lose our heritage because we don't preserve it in time," Kessler said.

Campaign co-chairs John R. Stoner and C. Eugene Wingert emphasized the center would not be just for farmers. It would house environmental activities for homeowners and the 4-H Club as well.

Wingert said that as third in the state in agriculture production, Franklin county residents deserve a full-service complex.

Elliott said providing for the space needs of the agencies is not the county's responsibility, but "we recognize the contribution of the agriculture industry and we value the stewardship of the land provided by the farmers who feed each and every one of us.

"By using our land on Franklin Farm Lane for this purpose, we have the opportunity to honor the intentions of the original landowners who sold it to the county in 1811 to be used as a county farm," Elliott said.

The official campaign kickoff will be Nov. 20 at noon at the existing Penn State Cooperative extension building.

Donors who contribute $5,000 or more will have the opportunity to have certain rooms named in their honor.

Nancy Saidis, a fund-raising consultant for the project, said she expects the project can go to bid in the fall of 2001 and construction can begin in the spring of 2002. The target completion date is spring 2003.

Saidis said she and the committee have already identified 1,700 potential donors and have verbal commitments from some.

"A lot depends on teamwork but I have full confidence the campaign will be very successful," Saidis said.

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