Ag Learning Center Seeks Animal Exception from Village

April 4, 2019

Cathy Kozlowicz

The Courier

After raising funds for the E. Peck Animal Agriculture Learning Center, the Marshall school district agriculture department sought an ordinance exception from the village’s planning commission to allow keeping of livestock at the facility.

The planning commission members, at the March 27 meeting, said the center will be a great project for the community.

Village President and planning commission chair John Schuepbach said that the agriculture department should include an outdoor corral in its plan so everything is requested for approval at once.

Member and village trustee Christopher Campbell echoed that in the final proposal. The agriculture department needs to plan the center five to 10 years down the road and put in everything they can think of for the future of the project into one request.

“Make it clear, it is not a barn, but a small handful of livestock,” he said.

Paula Bakken, Marshall High School’s agri-science teacher and FFA advisor for the middle and high schools, said there will be chickens that will be there year-round, but the other livestock, will be donated by the farmers for educational use to stay at the barn for a day to maybe a week to be cared for by the students. The animals will not be there long-term, she emphasized.

There will, however, be chickens housed year-round, potentially 20 broiler chickens and 20 egg-laying hens that will be kept warm in the winter by heating lamps.

The E. Peck Animal Agriculture Learning Center will give Marshall students, especially those taking agriculture classes, exposure to live animals, and this building will be an educational tool for Marshall students in all four schools.

The facility will be 36 by 48 feet, with an eight-foot porch on the north side with a heated utility room and sink. It will be located behind the high school about 15 to 20 feet from the parking lot.

After nearly three years of fundraising, $61,484 has been raised for the project. With $78,342 needed to construct the center, the school board on March 20 voted for the district to cover the difference, with the expectation that the cost be paid back. A $10,000 down payment needs to be made to proceed with the project. If the exemption is not made or the project is cancelled, the district would lose 20 percent or $2,000.

“Agriculture is so huge and so important for kids in their future careers,” Aubrey Schlimgen, Marshall High School student, said at the planning commission meeting.

“Kids who live in the city are not exposed and do not know how to act towards animals. It will teach them how to act towards an animal,” she added. “Agriculture is so important to kids and to our future careers.”

Bakken said at previous meetings that many of her students have read about animals but have not interacted with one nor have milked a cow. In the past, the class would go to the parking lot and see an animal tied to a trailer.

“Inside a barn stall, the animals feel safer in their environment,” Marshall High School student Michael Finke said. “They are calmer when we are around them. There will be more open space. It (the ag center) will fit more students to have a supervised agricultural experience that is required.”

Finke also added that with the building, students can come back and help in teaching the classes and developing the agriculture building. “I would love to come back and help teach. I grew up in the farming industry. This barn can be for generations to generations with students coming back.”

“To me, it is a natural fit. FFA is strong in the Village of Marshall in a rural area,” Schuepbach said. “I am glad you are pushing on it.”

The building process is slated to begin July or August.

There was also discussion for an upcoming conditional use permit for a music studio at the former pharmacy located at 701 W. Main St. The request is to operate a music studio within the downtown central business district for the sale, repair, testing, demonstration or other use of radios, television sets, high-fidelity sound equipment, electronic amplifiers, stereophonic sound systems, musical instruments and other related devices. Four to six employees will be hired, and there will be sound proofing so the studio will not disrupt the neighboring businesses.

“There will also be a security gate over the door,” owner of the proposed business, Kenon Winters said. He said that was a recommendation from the insurance company.

Winters, a graduate of Madison East High School, said that Marshall is a good place for the studio to be in close proximity to the music scene in Madison.

The E. Peck Animal Agriculture Learning Center and the music studio will be up for a recommendation vote from the planning commission at its meeting set for April 24 at 6 p.m. The requests may then proceed to the village board at its May 14 meeting.