The official dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony of the John Wood Community College Agricultural Sciences Complex and the Fred L. Bradshaw Learning Center was held Tuesday at the John Wood Community College Agricultural Education Center near Baylis, just off of Illinois Route 104.
The ceremony showcased a 44-year education partnership with the University of Illinois, John Wood Commmunity College, and the Orr Research Center Corporation. Private fundraising efforts between multiple families, the local county farm bureaus, and more were highlighted in the unveiling of the $2.5 million project.
The new ag sciences complex was dedicated to the late Fred L. Bradshaw who began championing the need for the facility several decades ago. Bradshaw also helped lay the groundwork for the purchase of the property for the complex and was the main leader for fundraising efforts.
More than 300 people were in attendance to commemorate the dedication including community members, key stakeholders, legislators, and donors.
John Wood Community College President Michael Elbe says the day was a defining moment: “For me, being involved with this from a concept to a reality today in 5 years – it’s a defining moment in the life of John Wood Community College. It’s a defining moment for our agricultural program, our partnership with the University of Illinois College of ACES, and a really defining moment for this region as far as economic development and what it is going to do to serve this community in the future.”
Elbe says that the defining moment will ultimately lead to serving the region’s agriculture community and economy for years to come: “I think we live in an ever-changing world, and agriculture is no different than that. I think we have to be able to pivot and move to be relevant in today’s world. I think this facility allows us the space and the technology to continue to be relevant in what we are doing to help the agricultural industry. There is so much that is changing, but one thing that won’t change is people have to eat. It’s the production side of agriculture and the support that these production partners need with grain and livestock that the program leads to. It’s not just producing. It’s supporting the producer. There is just so many opportunities that this facility is going to serve in the future.”
During festivities and remarks, the local farm bureaus were thanked for their overall support of the project. The farm bureaus of Adams, Pike-Scott, and Brown were specifically mentioned as major contributors and donors to the complex’s completion.
Pike-Scott Farm Bureau Executive Director Jenna Morrow says that being a native of the region and having personal connections to John Wood Community College, she sees the generational impact the facility will have: “Having grown up in the area, this has always been an important place in having an ag background. My brother and many of friends went here. It’s huge for the area. It’s really exciting that they have been able to expand and add on to it, and involve all of these groups, especially the farm bureaus. It’s a perfect fit for the farm bureaus because many of the members have gone here, have children or grandchildren enrolled here currently, so they want to see it continue the educational piece of agriculture – just helping everybody prepare themselves through the educational side of it to take on rolls in the community and be successful. That’s what farm bureau wants to see is people involved in agriculture, helping it out, making a good living, and enjoying all that it has to offer.”
Several local officials were on hand for the ceremonies including State Representative C.D. Davidsmeyer of Jacksonville, State Representative Chris Miller of Oakland and his wife 15th District Congresswoman Mary Miller, and State Senator Jil Tracy of Quincy.
Tracy says that Fred Bradshaw’s vision for the facility becoming a reality is a massive opportunity for the agriculture community of West Central Illinois: “This is the heart of Illinois agriculture. This is a learning research center. It’s obviously a great opportunity for the youth here that want to be involved in agriculture. We have seen it grow over 45 years. It’s very promising for the future of what we can do with agriculture and feed the world, as it was talked about. This is a part of that process. It’s exciting for this area.”
The Orr Corporation and John Wood Community College are still looking to raise a little less than $500,000 to complete the project. HVAC systems, minor interior upgrades, and technology are still being sought for purchase.
The 24,000-square-foot facility’s construction began last September 2021 at the JWCC Agricultural Education Center and the U of I Agricultural Research and Demonstration Center in Baylis. The newly completed facility houses offices and classrooms, an exposition/arena space, and an animal care unit designed for short-term or temporary housing for the welfare of animals. The facility will be full open to registered students of John Wood Community College this Fall.