Ground broken for Mt. Vernon facilities

The groundbreaking ceremony for the new Washington State University agricultural research center facilities at Mount Vernon was strictly ceremonial, but the symbolism was important to the growers and community members who participated.

“This has been a long time coming,” said John Roozen, president of Northwest Agricultural Research Foundation as he prepared to turn a symbolic shovel of dirt.  “This feels really great.”

Local growers and community leaders joined officials of WSU Extension and the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences on June 1 to celebrate the pending start of construction on the new facilities.

CAHNRS interim dean R. James Cook announced to the gathering that the contract for construction of the facility had been awarded to Impero Contracting Company of Bellingham, Wash. Actual construction is scheduled to begin in about a week with completion scheduled for next summer.

The contract includes construction of new greenhouse facilities, something that had been in question depending on the amount of the construction bids.


“So we’re going to get it all,” Cook said to the applause of the crowd.

Cook credited the Northwest Washington agricultural community, and particularly the growers in the Skagit Valley, for making the renovation and modernization of the 58-year old agricultural research facility a reality.

“We heard from the grass roots in the community,” Cook said.  “It was this community that was a magnet for this decision.”

The WSU Board of Regents approved a revitalization plan for the Northwest Washington Research and Extension Center at Mount Vernon in 2004.  The total project cost is $8 million.  WSU is providing $6 million of the cost.  A grant from Skagit County is providing $500,000 and the WSU Foundation is pursuing an additional $1.5 million in private support.

The renovation will not only replace the existing aging facilities, but will allow for significant expansion of the center’s research staffing and capacity.

Linda Kirk Fox, dean and director of WSU Extension told the gathering that the added research capability of the facility will increase Extension’s outreach activities to growers and processors not only in the region, but statewide and across the country.

“Research and extension go hand in hand,” said Fox.  “Without the research what would we have to ‘extend’ to the community?”




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