The R.T. Wright Farmhouse will move forward with improvements after the Board of Regents gave the University approval for repairs up to $1 million.
The improvements will include road expansion and a redesigned entrance to the 448-acre farm.
The University plans on signing a road expansion contract with Scott Gann Construction for $438,528 and $390,084 for the entrance redesign.
Senior agricultural science major Jessica Neibling said the farm improvements could be a crucial educational tool to future agriculture majors.
“With agriculture being one of the top five majors for students attending Northwest, I see the farm improvements and future plans as a much needed opportunity for students to continue gaining both educational and real-world experiences,” Neibling said.
Board of Regents Chair Dr. Pat Harr said these improvements are a part of a three prong project.
The first part of the project is to demolish and rebuild the farm manager’s house which had its groundbreaking Aug. 1. The University has partnered with Maryville school district’s Northwest Technical School for project construction.
The farm manager’s house will be 1,300 square feet and is expected to be completed in May.
The second part of the project is the resigned entrance and road expansion. The new entrance will make the farm more visible from the highway and will include signage, fencing and landscaping. Road expansion will add around 2,200 feet to Highway 71, including turn lanes into the farm.
“It’s small but it’s an important phase, its dressing up the entrance to the farm,” Harr said. “If you didn't know where you were going, you could miss it pretty easy. We’re in the process of developing a much nicer entrance into the farm that will highlight the fact that it is a University farm.”
The third aspect to the project is funding and construction of the 29,000 square foot Agricultural Learning Center; the center is estimated to cost $8.5 million.
“The crown jewel will really be the Agricultural Learning Center,” Harr said. “That is something that we need to increase the capability of our agriculture program and make it stand out from many other programs with the projects that students can do there.”
Neibling said the University is setting agriculture students up for success as they will go on to be the next generation to grow food.
“Feeding an estimated 9.7 billion people by the year 2050 is no easy task,” Neibling said. “With the potential upgrades to the farm and School of Agriculture, Northwest can continue to invest locally in its students and position them for success in all areas of agriculture.”