03/05/06 — New agricultural center planned

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New agricultural center planned

By Turner Walston
Published in News on March 5, 2006 2:11 AM

The county's agriculture offices could have a new home in a few years. County officials, along with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, are soliciting bids from architectural firms for the design and construction of a new building near Cherry Research Farm.

Wayne County received a $200,000 planning grant from the Legislature last fall for a regional agricultural facility.

Eddie Pitzer, superintendent of Cherry Research Farm and Center for Environmental Farming Systems, said the new facility would house the Wayne County offices of North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service and USDA Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conversation Service, Cherry Research Farm and CEFS.

"We don't really have a title for that facility yet," said Pitzer. "We've been calling it a 'regional agricultural center.'"

The facility would be approximately 40,000 square feet, and tentative plans are to locate the building near the 2,000 acres of Cherry Research Farm. The closing date for bids is April 4. Currently, the offices of Cooperative Extension, Farm Service Agency and NRCS are located at Wayne Center on Chestnut Street. Howard Scott, county director for North Carolina Cooperative Extension, said the downtown offices were outgrowing the Wayne Center, which is nearly 50 years old.

"There's no room in the inn," Scott said. "We have greater opportunities to expand through grants and research, and there's no place to expand here."

The project is in the early planning stages, Pitzer said.

"We've got to first get an architect that will work with us, and then be able to look at how we could design a facility that would meet the needs of those operations," he said. "Before we can proceed any further, we've kind of got to have a footprint of what we really need."

Pitzer said the local agencies were working together to make the building a one-stop facility for agriculture in the county.

"It would make sense to have a facility that would meet all of our needs," Pitzer said. "All of us that kind of have a common goal will be housed under one roof, where we can share some of our resources with the (agricultural) community as well as the general public," Pitzer said.

Scott said the proposed facility could open new doors for agriculture in Wayne County, and could host conferences and conventions

"People would come to Wayne County to look at agricultural issues because of our facilities," he said.

"It gives us an opportunity to position Goldsboro and Wayne County as an agri-business climate," Scott said. "We'll be able to bring things to Wayne County that we're not having the opportunity to bring right now."