Open house draws hundreds to Polk’s new agriculture center

Published 3:26 pm Friday, December 18, 2009

Open house draws hundreds to Polks new ag center
County lands $100k+ equipment donation
An open house this past weekend for Polk Countys new agricultural development center drew hundreds of area residents to the former Mill Spring School, including 65 people who either attended or taught at the school in the past.
The Polk County Office of Agricultural Economic Development gave tours of the old school building that it plans to transform into a multi-purpose center. The new center will support Polks agricultural economy, as well as arts, tourism, health and wellness and education.
The overall theme at the open house Sunday was one of restoration, not only with the ongoing renovation of the building but at a deeper level, according to county officials.
“There was a sense of nostalgia as residents from Tryon, Saluda, Columbus and Saluda visited with each other over hot chocolate and a warm bowl of hearty chili catered by Saludas Manna Cabana,” said Vaughn Loeffler, project manager for the new center. “Many folks found themselves slipping back in time as they strolled through the 12-foot (high) halls that might have once seemed a bit intimidating, and peaked into the old classrooms where they once sat in their desks and daydreamed about their future. Well, the future is now here and there is new life coming back into the old school.”
Loeffler said the open house was a big success and the county is already seeing significant support from the community for the project. This week several residents, he says, have made cash donations along with other equipment. They also are volunteering time and services, stating simply; “I want to be a part of this.”
The center got a another major boost yesterday when Loeffler and Lynn Sprague, Polk Countys Agricultural Economic Development Director, made a trip to a commercial refrigeration factory in Spartanburg.
Loeffler says the company has agreed to donate several pieces of stainless steel kitchen equipment valued at around $100,000 for use in the centers culinary space and retail farm store. He adds that the center may soon obtain additional equipment donations.
According to the agricultural economic development office, 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. The center would do so through collaborate projects and innovation in the fields of agriculture, natural resources, education, tourism, health and wellness, art and music. The Polk Soil and Water Conservation District is partnering with the agricultural development office on the project.
The initial goals are to launch the first phase of renovations that include repairing, painting and basic maintenance of the facility in order to establish general operations. The center is also seeking funding through foundation and government grants 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.
The former school building has a 500-seat auditorium, which can be used for a wide range of purposes.
Future projects include a commercial culinary center, agricultural economic development projects, outdoor education programs, an art studio and gallery and green power projects.
The agricultural development center is 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. For more information contact the agricultural development office at 828-894-2281.

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