Opportunities 'endless' at ag science center
The learning opportunities are endless on a property the Burleson ISD has purchased to further agriculture science education, Career and Technical Education Director Larry Bills told trustees last week.
"The primary use for the facility will be to house the students' animal projects that will be exhibited at county and major livestock shows," he said. "It will provide us a place for extended learning opportunities. Some of the features of the property will add applied learning aspects to wildlife and ecology programs."
The 51-acre property, formerly Bryn Melyn Farm, was purchased in May with oil and gas revenues reserved by trustees.
"This is another one of those things, similar to STEAM, that we were able to do out of our savings account," Trustees President Shawn Minor said. "The fact we were able to do this, and pay cash for it, is a testament to this community and the school district."
The property includes a covered arena, equipment barn, stall barn, outbarns and an events facility the BISD will use for FFA purposes, in addition to other career and technical education uses.
It may not be viewed to be a large tract of land, Bills said, "but it seems bigger than what it actually is. You're right outside of town, but you feel like you're in the middle of nowhere when you are there. It's very quiet, peaceful, and beautiful is a good way to describe it."
Burleson's FFA program is one of the state's oldest, and the property will allow it to flourish, Bills said. There are 266 students enrolled in an agricultural education class at Burleson High and 69 more at Centennial High for the fall.
"We know this will increase our participation," he said. "We're opening a brand new program at Centennial this school year. We fully anticipate these programs growing because of this."
The property includes pole fencing that Bills has found to be in excellent condition. The pastures have "an above average cover of common and coastal bermuda grass we can utilize for some hay production for the student projects," Bills said. The facility is "fabulous," he added.
The property offers an opportunity to host livestock exhibitions, Bills said, which would create a potential financial windfall for local business and sales tax coffers while exhibitors are in town.
"This is a dynamite facility for a group of kids that have waited a long, long time for this to happen," Minor said.
"They've waited 81 years, if I'm not mistaken," Jimerson said.
The district will aim to use the facility in as many ways as possible, Bills said. He's explored senior picnics, elementary days at the farm and a pumpkin patch among potential opportunities. One building could provide the space needed for a Junior ROTC soft-pellet rifle range.
"If you want pumpkins in October, you have to plant them in July, Dr. Jimerson," Bills said.
"So, you're asking me to plant pumpkin seeds?" Jimerson retorted.
Members of the Burleson FFA participating in livestock production have previously had no facility in which to raise animals. Students had success finding landowners willing to lease them space.
"This will expose our students truly to what production agriculture is like," Bills said. "I haven't spoken to anyone who hasn't expressed how pleased they are, and how excited they are about the facility. We want this to be utilized by as many people as possible."