Inside the livestock lab at Blue Mountain Community College’s new Facility for Agricultural Resource Management, or FARM, instructor Nick Nelson beamed as he showcased the high-tech Silencer hydraulic cattle chute.
Not only is the latest piece of equipment better for animal welfare and handling, but it is more likely what students can expect to find working on a large ranch operation, Nelson said during the FARM grand opening ceremony Thursday.
“It means easier employment when they know how to operate these things safely,” Nelson explained.
FARM is the third and final construction project to be completed after voters in Umatilla and Morrow counties passed a $23 million capital bond for BMCC in 2015. Earlier this year, the college also debuted its new Workforce Training Center in Boardman and Precision Irrigated Agriculture Center in Hermiston.
The two-story FARM building in Pendleton combines classroom and lab space under one roof for the agriculture department, replacing an older, smaller shop building. It is surrounded by a 100-acre working farm where BMCC students learn hands-on how to manage cattle and grow prominent local crops — such as alfalfa to feed those hungry cows.
“We essentially buy very little feed for the livestock here,” Nelson said.
Though classes officially began Monday, guests gathered Thursday afternoon for a ribbon cutting and dedication by school leaders. BMCC President Cam Preus said it was a long road building the facility, and thanked voters for their support on the bond.
“This is a wonderful way to celebrate BMCC’s nationally recognized agriculture program,” Preus said.
Chris Brown, chairman of the BMCC Board of Education, said the school has fulfilled its promise to voters after completing all three bond projects.
“This is certainly a special day,” Brown said. “Today, we really unveil a facility that matches the caliber of our program.”
Preston Winn, chairman of the BMCC agriculture department, choked up as he talked about how the building will help instructors better educate the next generation of farmers, ranchers and agriculture professionals.
“I’m overwhelmed because of thanksgiving,” Winn said. “Community college means just that: community.”
FARM cost $6.3 million to build, including $2.1 million of state match and lottery funds. State Sen. Bill Hansell (R-Athena) was unable to attend Thursday’s event, but sent a letter praising BMCC as a leader in innovative programs.
While FARM is less than a week old, BMCC is already thinking expansion. The school has partnered with the Pendleton Round-Up Association and city of Pendleton on FARM Phase II, which would expand animal science and veterinary classes and provide a new arena for the BMCC rodeo team. Together, they are working to raise money for the $10 million proposal.
In addition, BMCC timed the grand opening of FARM to coincide with the opening reception for the annual “Art About Agriculture” exhibit, organized by the Oregon State University College of Agricultural Sciences and hosted this year by the Betty Feves Memorial Gallery.
Nine Northwest artists are featured in the exhibit, with pieces inspired by this year’s theme, “Places to Thrive.” Lori Sams, gallery director, said the timing between the two events was intentional.
“I definitely wanted the gallery to have a show related to agriculture,” Sams said. “I think it is interest to draw that connection between art and agriculture.”
The exhibit runs through Oct. 26. The gallery is open Monday through Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., or by appointment.
Contact George Plaven at email@example.com or 541-966-0825.