Ag Educ. Center Open House
Gary Sovereign, red shirt, explains to locals how the air scrubber works in the swine production area of the Ag Education Center at the Howard County Fairgrounds.
CRESCO - A large crowd attended the open house for the swine production area of the Ag Education Center at the Howard County Fairgrounds on March 22.
Visitors were able to tour the new center, and all came away very impressed with the state-of-the art facility, especially the swine production area.
Those attending the open house first gathered in the new show arena for an introduction and comments. Tom Barnes, Executive Secretary of Howard County Fair Board, welcomed everyone and noted the presence of several dignitaries, including Dr. Liang Wee Ph.D., President NICC; Alan Brown, President Iowa State Fair; Jon Baltes, President Franklin County Fair; and Dale and Laura Reicks, Reicks View Farms.
“The Fair Board has been working on a new livestock facility for at least four years. It started off as a swine barn, which would be utilized five days per year. [Board president] Gary Sovereign asked to incorporate an educational aspect into the building. From that a small education room in swine barn morphed into this new 23,000 square foot Ag Education Center.” Barnes stated.
Since this is a first-of-its-kind facility, the board sought advice on setting procedures and direction on how to proceed. A few board members met with Dr. Wee and several key staff members of NICC, and Dale and Laura Reicks of Reicks View Farms. With the encouragement received, the board felt it was time to proceed with the new center. Barnes noted the board was looking to set an example for other fairs and educational centers. “There is nothing like this at any county fairgrounds,” Barnes commented.
With the amount of commitment and support the board found early on, “We knew we could make this work, and we did.”
Barnes has been a passionate proponent of the project since day one, especially since it is for the youth. “We are celebrating the youth and the community with this Education Center.”
He explained how the youth and adults will be observing the swine production area. For the youth it will be hands-on, but anyone will be able to view several areas of the center by means of a video system. Advisors will be keeping track of the students and animals alike via a state-of-the-art ‘controller’ that will monitor the feeding/watering, interior climate control and air temperature and air quality.
Barnes noted a few board members will have the ability to monitor the center using their smart phones and personal computers. Incorporated into the controller is a notification process that will send a message if a problem should arise with any part of the equipment.
Folks were able to walk around the center and see where the pigs will be housed. One of the busiest areas was the air scrubbing system that is designed to keep down the dust and smell of the swine production area of the center. The system is able to take out 86 percent of the odor.
Barnes also stated there will be three sows farrowing during the fair, and the dairy barn will feature the birth of several calves. He added there is no telling how far and wide the new Ag Education Center will touch people.
Barnes admitted this project is very much ‘outside of the typical box’, but if something is not tried, one will never know the results. “Chances have to be taken in life,” Barnes explained. “How does a turtle get ahead? It sticks its neck out. And in this new center the Fair Board is definitely taking a chance.”
But this new Center is another example of what the Mighty Howard County Fair is all about ... encouraging the goals of the area youth and highlighting the ethnic and cultural heritage of surrounding communities.
Donations are requested to the new center. Monetary and in-kind donations of any amount are appreciated. Pens in the center can be sponsored for $1,500 each. Every donor to the center will be featured on a display in the entry foyer of the Ag Education Center.
Multi-year payments (up to three years) are an option to assist donors in making their commitment to the center. The Howard County Agricultural Society is a not-for-profit organization in the State of Iowa and is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501-c3 tax-exempt organization. Contributions are considered a charitable donation and therefore could be tax deductible. Interested persons should contact a Fair Board member for more information on donating to the Center.
For those who missed the open house, there will be plenty of chances to see it in action by walking through the new Ag Education Center during the Fair, June 22-26.