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Western Maryland Research & Education Center is now property of University of Maryland

April 26, 2007|by KATE S. ALEXANDER

WASHINGTON COUNTY - After 30 years of education and research in rural Washington County, the Western Maryland Research & Education Center officially became the property of the University of Maryland on Wednesday.

Established in 1977 by the U.S. Department of Education, the center has functioned under the direction of the University of Maryland since its inception.

When the 546 acres of land south of Hagerstown were given to the University for research and education, the agreement was simple: "maintain the facility in good shape and have the property transferred to you in 30 years," center director Frank Allnutt said.

Looking back on the last 30 years, Allnutt said the center has hosted more than 1,600 programs and 83,800 students and researchers.

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Specializing in farm management, nutrient management, viticulture and small fruit, sheep and goats, and natural resources, an estimated 57 research and demonstration projects are conducted at the center annually.

Neither the past nor the present really interested Dr. Chen-i Wei, dean of the College of Agriculture & Natural Resources and director of both the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Maryland Cooperative Extension.

"Agriculture in this state is diversifying, and with this transfer of ownership, we can work to continue diversifying agriculture," he said.

For those who teach and work at the center, the transfer of ownership was more than ceremonial.

"Now, we have a security in our work," said Joseph Fiola, who heads the viticulture and small fruit specialty. "We can't mess it up, and the Feds can't take it away."

Allnutt said the center will continue to function much as it has for the last few years, just under the shade of a new tree.

In honor of the center's future, Allnutt, Wei and others planted a small seedling from the old Wye Oak that once stood in Queen Anne's County.

The only Wye Oak on the property, Allnutt said the tree symbolizes the future.

The Western Maryland Research & Education Center is an outreach of the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension.

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