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   from the issue of January 27, 2005

Kimmel Center project under way in Nebraska City


A groundbreaking celebration for the University of Nebraska/Kimmel Education and Research Center occurred in Nebraska City on Jan. 25.

Officials from the University of Nebraska, the Richard P. and Laurine Kimmel Charitable Foundation and the National Arbor Day Foundation participated in the event at the construction site in the Kimmel Orchard north of Nebraska City.

The 9,200-square foot education and research center is slated for completion in late July. Construction officially began in December. It will feature a large classroom for educational programs that also will serve as a university satellite classroom. It will include office space and viticulture and specialty forest crop laboratories that university Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources researchers will use for ongoing studies.

The center is a joint effort of the Kimmel Foundation and the university. The private Kimmel Foundation is funding construction and will own the building. The university provides staff for Cooperative Extension educational programming and research, explained Carol Ringenberg, extension educator and program development director for the center.

While building construction is just beginning, joint programs and research involving the university, Kimmel Foundation and the National Arbor Day Foundation have been under way for several years.

"The Kimmel Foundation is delighted to join the University of Nebraska and the National Arbor Day Foundation in the development of a model program in extension education and alternative crop demonstrations," said Ernest Weyeneth, Kimmel Foundation president and chief operating officer.

The educational programs offered through the center focus primarily on agritourism, viticulture, specialty forest products and sustainable agriculture. Projects emphasize developing value-added products and markets for Nebraska and the region along with land stewardship, Ringenberg said.

University faculty already have test plots for grapes and for marketable woody plants at the orchard and offer educational field days and programs. Ringenberg and others also are exploring ways to expand agritourism as a source of added income for farmers and to educate people about agriculture's importance.

"Education is our first focus in Cooperative Extension and it's one of the Kimmel Foundation's top priorities so this has been a terrific partnership," she said. The new building will provide space to expand those educational opportunities for agricultural producers and consumers.



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