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NEO officials break ground – Synar Farm set to undergo major ren - KOAM TV 7

NEO officials break ground – Synar Farm set to undergo major renovations

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NEWS RELEASE ISSUED MAY 14, 2014 BY NORTHEASTERN OKLAHOMA A&M COLLEGE

Wednesday, May 14, 2014 – Officials at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College (NEO) are taking the next steps toward renovations for Synar Farm. These will be bigger steps than any taken since the farm’s indoor arena was originally built more than 20 years ago. A plan for a master renovation is in the works that would occur in phases over several years. A timeline is currently being established that will begin with an addition to the indoor arena, which serves as the epicenter of activity on the 200-acre farm.

A Synar Farm Renovation capital campaign, along with other sources of funding, will help to provide monetary support for the initial renovations. The addition to the indoor arena would make the facility much more functional and provide stalling for students who currently are on a waiting list to board their horse at the farm. The addition to the indoor arena will include a return alley and a 60-foot covered pen on the southwest end of the indoor arena. Forty additional stalls and tack lockers are also in the plans. A swine facility featuring a farrowing house and a feeding barn, which will replace an existing structure that is in poor condition, is also part of the long-range renovation strategy.

In addition to the practice and hands-on classroom elements the facilities provide, Synar Farm has been a long-seen part of NEO’s campus for thousands of students attending agriculturally oriented events throughout the years. The NEO Aggie Days has been in existence for more than 60 years, hosting students for a three-day agriculture interscholastic contest from a multi-state area. Any student who is an FFA or 4-H member is eligible to attend, and it is one of the many popular events the agricultural program hosts that serve as an educational tool to students, as well as a recruitment element for NEO. Synar Farm is typically at the forefront of students’ first impression of the college.

“The agricultural program utilizes Synar Farm to host a number of events on campus, which make them a critical recruiting tool for us,” said Shannon Cunningham, assistant vice president for academic affairs and department chair of agriculture. “While we have some of the most incredible facilities in the state, there have been a number of contributing factors over the last several years that have ultimately driven us to continue to undertake improvements that are important to our agricultural program for our students. We hope to continue making our program excellent in every possible way, and facility improvements are a key component to that.”

When considerations were being made to add the equestrian team to NEO’s activities, facilities were among the determining factors. Fortunately, existing structures were instrumental in making the team a reality, as the need for practice space and horse facilities were already established. The facilities have proven useful for additional achievements for the equestrian team such as hosting an IHSA show in October 2013, which brought more than 100 collegiate riders to NEO’s Synar Farm facilities.

NEO’s Elm Street Farm will also undergo renovations to better accommodate the college’s purebred cattle herds. Plans include a complete overhaul of the barn and perimeter fencing. These renovations, in conjunction with a new swine facility, will support the proud tradition of NEO’s livestock team.

Cunningham said the existing structures were one of the key components for incorporating the equestrian team into the agricultural program, and they are continuing to look toward the future in terms of facility goals. “Our facilities have been, and continue to be, one of our greatest assets,” Cunningham said. “We already taught classes that revolved around horsemanship and riding and have tied those into the equestrian team. Over the past five years, we have made significant improvements that were necessary to maintain Synar Farm for our student practices, as well as for class laboratories and recruiting.”

“Because the farm is representative of our institution’s commitment to agriculture and competitive agricultural teams—and provides outlets that facilitate learning, as well as practice for our competitive teams in rodeo, equestrian, livestock judging and horse judging— there is still a critical need for facility improvements.”

The past improvements Cunningham referenced have been about $100,000 in facility updates completed primarily by 2011. They included the addition of 20 new horse stalls, which were added to the 60 existing stalls, signage, a 125-foot round pen, and a third arena. There was also the addition of much-need security measures, (which entailed adding security cameras and lighting to the indoor arena and east stalling barn), as well as fencing around the indoor arena, a new roof for one of the stalling barns and some drainage work. Funding for the renovations came from departmental funds, student services and special supporters of NEO, “Hale’s President’s Partners” group.

The third outdoor arena, built in 2011, is lighted and has a calf-roping chute. The new fencing around the indoor arena provides a means for locking down the entire area, making it possible to keep horses, tack and equipment locked in and unwanted visitors out.

The added security and fencing has been smart for an area that houses thousands of dollars in tack, equipment and horses, and the additional stalls have helped fill a growing need for the ag program’s growing enrollment. Cunningham said that while facility additions have allowed for the stalling of 80 student horses, there are still close to 20 on the waiting list.

“NEO’s agriculture department has a rich history of being a national leader in Ag education. This year we have over 260 students from more than 20 different states. During my time here, NEO ag students have been some of our most active campus leaders, graduate at a rate higher than the general student body, and are very involved in campus life,” said NEO President Dr. Jeff Hale. “This facility improvement plan will help us continue to recruit and retain the best and brightest students from our local area and around the country.”

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Photo - Back row, from left: Bob Carder, campaign member, Darrell Bilke, campaign member, David Thomas, campaign member, and Tyler Dewey, livestock judging coach

Front row, from left: Margaret Thomas, campaign member, Dr. Jeff Hale, NEO president, Mike Sexton, campaign member, Dr. Shannon Cunningham, department chair of agriculture and assistant vice president of academic affairs, and Lauren Crudup, Aggie Society president


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