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UWRF Campus Farm gets updates to improve classroom experience

Falcon News Service

April 10, 2017

The UW-River Falls Campus Farm is undergoing renovations that will make it more usable as a classroom, while also preparing the way for more extensive changes down the road.

The Campus Farm is located just south of the main campus of UWRF, and is largely dedicated to horse operations through the animal science program. The farm includes various barns, pastures and arenas, and is used for breeding, raising and training horses, as well as putting on rodeos, shows and sales.

The area is also often used as a laboratory classroom, but because it was not designed with that purpose in mind, teaching classes at the Campus Farm is less than efficient. That is where the renovations come into play.

“We’re at that point where something has to be done now to make it usable,” said Dean Olson, associate dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES).

The pavilion building, which includes some classroom and lab spaces, does not have a room big enough to comfortably fit full-sized classes. Instead, Olson said, the structure is divided into a series of smaller rooms. The plan is to take out a bunch of the dividing walls and to put in new technology, such as a screen for presentations, that will allow classes to run more smoothly.

In the past, professors have had to teach in the academic buildings on the main campus and commute to the Campus Farm to give demonstrations. Putting a functional classroom in the Campus Farm, Olson said, will free up a lot of space in the academic buildings and make the teaching process more efficient. This is important for the animal science program, considering the steady increase it has been experiencing since at least 2012 and the fact that it has the most enrollment of all programs within CAFES, according to the UWRF enrollment report.

Other updates include repainting, replacement of the ceiling and basic utility work. The old tile flooring will also be replaced, largely because it is made of asbestos (which can potentially cause lung problems when it begins to degrade, according to the Environmental Protection Agency). Total costs for the renovations are going to be between $10,000 and $20,000, and funds are coming from a combination of private donations and money set aside by the CAFES dean’s office.

All of this is part of a larger effort, called the Laboratory Farm Master Plan, which aims to do more complete renovations on both the Campus Farm and the Mann Valley Farm (which is located along County Highway MM just west of River Falls). The Campus Farm has a lot of structural issues, Olson said. Old glass windows allow for a lot of heat loss, as do doors that lead directly outside without a vestibule to trap air, and the roof needs to be completely torn out and replaced.

Some of the pig facilities at the Mann Valley Farm, said Bill Connolly, director of the lab farms, are in even worse shape. The farrowing barns (where the piglets are born), the nursery and the finishing barn (where the pigs are brought up to market size) were built in the late 1970s and early ‘80s, and were not intended to be used as long as they have been.

“We should have had a new, I’d like to say, 10 years ago, 10 to 15 years ago,” said Connolly. “This building is just… it’s archaic. Its useful life is long past.”

Of the two lab farms, the Mann Valley pig buildings are in more dire need of repair, but because of funding issues, their renovation is going to be put off. The pig facilities, Olson said, need to be completely demolished and rebuilt, which is an expensive project to undertake. By contrast, the horse facilities merely need to be remodeled. This is still an expensive project — Olson tentatively estimates that it will cost less than $1 million — but smaller projects like the renovations going on right now can get the ball rolling without having to get approval from the UW System.

The current project is already well underway. The Campus Farm was closed for the spring semester, and the demolition process was begun over J-term and is now nearing completion. Construction will continue over the summer, and the newly renovated classroom, Olson said, is scheduled to be reopened come fall semester.