WMREC event offers much for farmers, homeowners

July 19, 2005|by JEFF SEMLER/Extension educator

Earlier this year, there was a grand celebration when the University of Maryland opened a center in the historic Baldwin Building in downtown Hagerstown.

Unknown to many, this was not the first presence the university has had here.

The University of Maryland is a Land Grant University, founded by the Morrill Act under President Abraham Lincoln. The express purpose of the Land Grant institution was for the teaching of Agriculture and Mechanics. Later, the mission expanded to research and outreach.

Forgoing a long history lesson, the university's first campus in Washington County opened in 1920 in the form of the Extension Office.

Extension is just what it sounds like - it is the outreach or extension of the university into the community.

The second campus of the university to open in the county was the Western Maryland Research and Education Center on Keedysville Road. The land, formerly known as the Ritchie B Site, was given to the oniversity by the Department of Defense in the late 1970s.


Then, as I said, this past winter, the University Center opened, completing the presence of the university in all three of their core mission areas: teaching, research and outreach.

All three of these campuses are staffed by faculty and staff of the University of Maryland.

The focus of this article is the Western Maryland Research and Education Center or WMREC, as it is affectionately known to those of us who work for Maryland.

So what goes on there? Have you ever driven by the center and wondered?

Well, don't let the word "research" scare you. They aren't raising mutant farm animals or strange crops. It is not like Area 51, there are no aliens - if we're not counting some of the weeds growing in the weed plots.

Your opportunity is about to knock!

On Saturday, Aug. 6, you are invited to their first Open House.

Now some will say, wait a minute, there used to be field days.

Yes, there were, but this year, we are hosting an Open House.

What's the difference?

Simply that field days were very narrow in their focus and were only on the research that was taking place on the site.

This year, the scope will be much broader. Yes, there will still be wagon tours that will showcase the current research projects being carried out there.

The differences are that there will be interactive displays on many different topics. The University of Maryland will have recruiters there to answer questions for prospective students. The College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, which is the college that administers WMREC, will have specialists on site to answer questions on topics from sheep to turf grass.

While these topics are diverse, they will appeal to folks from all walks of life. Most think of agriculture as only about farming.

And yes, there will be topics that will appeal to farmers. There will also be topics that appeal to homeowners on lawn and landscape. Topics will also include financial management and chainsaw safety.

Another major difference for those who remember the old field days is there will be no main meal. There will be food available to purchase, however.

The hours of the Open House will be from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.

Would you like to learn what goes on at WMREC? Or would you like to ask questions or garner information about attending the University of Maryland, College Park or the Institute of Applied Agriculture?

Then you need to stop by WMREC and enjoy a day on the farm.

Jeff Semler is an Extension educator, specializing in 4-H youth development as well as agriculture and natural resources, for the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension. He is based in Washington County. He can be reached weekdays by telephone at 301-791-1404, ext. 25, or by e-mail at

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