A new, revised proposal to build an agriculture education center near the center of Polk County has put new emphasis on trying to get the county’s help in making it a reality.
Jeff Hawkins with the Polk County Cattlemen’s Association, along with other members and agriculture teachers from both Rockmart and Cedartown schools, presented the proposal during the Polk County Commission’s work session on Monday, Oct. 5.
The delegation requested the county commit $600,000 for property, architectural drawings, and relative engineering and environmental studies to get the project off of the ground. The money would go toward the purchase of 13.16 acres of land in the Fish Creek area near U.S. 278 and Bethlehem Road.
Hawkins said a group of residents called Friends of Agriculture, which has been provisionally approved for non-profit status, would then step in to raise $1 million for the project while also working together with the county to finish the facility at a remaining estimated cost of $3 million.
Commissioners discussed the project with Hawkins but ultimately did not take up the issue during their business meeting on Oct. 6.
“Obviously this has been an issue and topic of discussion for months on months, and for some of the commissioners in the past, myself included, it’s boiled down to whether it is a wanted or needed item,” Commission Chairman Hal Floyd said.
“This is more than we’ve had in the past, and I think it’s worth a look at.”
Commissioner Linda Liles, who owns a small cattle farm, said she appreciated Hawkins and the group presenting the revised proposal, but noted that they would have to take it to the commission’s finance committee first for it to be properly considered.
Hawkins reiterated that agriculture was one of the main industries in Polk County and the center would have many uses, from an outdoor livestock area to an indoor multi-purpose arena, classrooms, a commercial kitchen for hands-on nutrition classes and a cannery.
“To me, I look at this as a benefit for Polk County residents,” Hawkins said, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic had brought more people back to agriculture, if just on a small scale.
“So to have something like this would be an educational advantage for residents. I understand you’ve got to look at the budgets, but look at it as a break-even deal and providing a service to the community.”