County outlines big plans for old Mill Spring School

Published 2:28 pm Friday, December 11, 2009

Polk County residents can take a tour Sunday of the old, vacant Mill Spring School and learn about plans to transform the building into an agricultural development center.

The Polk County Soil and Water Conservation District is hosting an open house and tour of the old school building from 1 to 3 p.m. on Sunday.

The building is located behind the Mill Spring Fire Department at the intersection of Hwys. 9 and 108 in Mill Spring. Chili and cornbread will be served.

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The old school building, which includes a large auditorium, may be used not only to bolster the countys agricultural economy but also to support education, tourism, health and wellness and art and music.

The following was released by the Polk County Office of Agricultural Economic Development to explain further the proposed overall purpose of the new agricultural development center.

Ag center plans

Theres an exciting new project in Polk County. Last week the Polk County Soil and Water Conservation District received the vacant Mill Spring School as a donation. A couple of board meetings later, the agricultural development center was born. The new ag centers vision is to enhance community spirit and quality of life by working with farmers, businesses and individuals as well as state and federal agencies to promote the sustainable economic growth and rural charter of Polk County through collaborate projects and innovation in the fields of agriculture, natural resources, education, tourism, health and wellness, art and music.

Short and long term goals

Our initial goals are to launch the first phase of renovations that include repairing, painting and basic maintenance of our facility in order to establish general operations. We are also currently seeking funding through foundation and government grant opportunities as well as tax deductible donations from businesses and individuals. The second phase of renovations will include: updating equipment, remodeling, installing supplemental green power, greenhouses, gardens, elevators, and a banquet hall for conference and large events.

Future projects

Soil and Water Conservation programs will continue to work with landowners and businesses to improve the soil and water quality with methods such as cover cropping, riparian buffers, easements, no till farming and forestry management.

Commercial culinary center that will provide farmers and entrepreneurs a certified kitchen space for preserving seasonal produce, preparing banquet meals for fundraising social functions and creating marketable farm products.

Agricultural economic development projects such as multi-state produce distribution, farm product marketing, retail farm store, and expanding farmers markets.

Outdoor education such as nature trails, orchard installation, natural resource conservation, horticultural interpretive exhibits, edible landscapes, greenhouse workshops, and season extension techniques.

Art studio and gallery will offer space for individual and group art projects as well as a consignment gallery where artists can sell their work to the public. We will also be interested in having murals painted on many of the interior walls.

Auditorium with seating for 500 will be available to local musicians, high school orchestra fundraising events, presentations and dinner shows.

Green power projects such as solar hot water and supplemental electric generation. Duke Energy may be interested in sponsoring an industrial arts shop to train skilled labor for their future regional power plant.

As you can see the possibilities are endless and this is just the beginning. With all of the community support were receiving so far we expect that this center will continue its momentum and really bring more positive energy to our county and all those who to enjoy what we have to offer.

If you would like to be a part of our mission, we are now seeking tax deductible donations for office equipment and furniture, tables and chairs, power tools, gardening and landscaping equipment, interior and exterior paint, art supplies, building materials (roofing, sheetrock, fasteners, tile and hardwood flooring) commercial kitchen appliances, musical instruments, tractors and heavy equipment, cleaning supplies, plants, trees and shrubs, gravel, stones and mulch are jut a few things that will get us up and running.