Ohio State Extension gifted $5m for expansion

Donation to be used to construct and maintain new Franklin County Extension offices and learning spaces.

A $5 million gift from a longtime Ohio State University (OSU) supporter who wishes to remain anonymous will extend the outreach arm of the OSU College of Food, Agricultural & Environmental Sciences by creating the Franklin County Extension Building Capital Fund, which will be used for construction and maintenance of new Franklin County Extension offices and learning spaces for the Waterman Agricultural & Natural Resources Laboratory.

Waterman is designated for a major renovation into a research, learning and outreach hub. Bringing Franklin County Extension to Waterman will put cutting-edge research at the extension office’s front door. The new office will engage the community in demonstration gardens, large urban farm enterprises, nutrition kitchens and day camps. Pending approval from the Board of Trustees, construction will begin in 2017.

“Community outreach, along with outstanding teaching and cutting-edge research, is a key goal of our college,” said Lonnie J. King, interim vice president for agricultural administration and dean of the College of Food, Agricultural & Environmental Sciences. “With that in mind, we’re grateful that this generous person recognizes the accomplishments of OSU Extension and Ohio 4-H. This gift will enhance the college’s outreach and that of Franklin County Extension.”

Roger Rennekamp, associate dean and director of OSU Extension, said the gift is a testimony to the power of philanthropy to enhance community outreach statewide. "Extension is a vital force for improving lives and strengthening communities. By locating the new Franklin County Extension Office on OSU’s Waterman Farm, we create a living laboratory for exploring the entire food system from production to consumption,” he said.

Currently, the Waterman site houses dairy cows in a fully operational milking facility, as well as numerous faculty and student projects.

“As a result of this generous investment, we will be well positioned to become a world-class innovative model of cooperative extension,” Franklin County Extension director Laquore J. Meadows said. “The centralized location will help us to be more accessible to Franklin County residents. The close proximity to our campus colleagues will allow us to capitalize on and enhance ongoing collaborations.”

Last year, Franklin County Extension helped expand the availability of fresh urban foods, advised small agribusiness owners and traditional producers and provided community development classes in financial literacy and home buyer education. Nearly 8,000 people learned how to make healthier food choices, keep food safe and extend their food dollars thanks to federal funding provided to OSU Extension. OSU Extension also administers Ohio 4-H, which reached 12,000 central Ohio children through in-school or after-school enrichment programs. OSU and other funding sources contributed $1.1 million of Franklin’s nearly $1.3 million operating budget last year, the agency’s most recent budget documents show.

“Franklin County is proud of its long-standing partnership with OSU Extension in providing quality educational programs and outreach in the areas of urban agriculture, family and consumer sciences and 4-H,” said John O’Grady, president of the Franklin County board of commissioners. “I am thrilled to learn of this generous gift that will allow this work to go even further for the benefit of Franklin County residents.”

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