If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Thanks to the efforts of Blue Mountain Community College and a host of others, the grand opening of the Precision Irrigated Agriculture Center took place Thursday before a large crowd of stakeholders and supporters.
The new center was built following the May 2015 passage of a $23 million bond measure that also is paying for a Workforce Training & Early Childhood Education Training center on Port of Morrow property behind the SAGE Center in Boardman, and the Facility for Agricultural Research Management (FARM) which will open on the BMCC Pendleton campus.
But that was the second attempt to pass the bond measure after the first one failed in November 2013.
“I applaud the voters for making this happen,” said Phil Hamm, director of the Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center (HAREC).
The new center cost $3.2 million to construct and will train students how to utilize the latest technologies – such as GPS, satellites, unmanned aerial systems and smartphones – to make agricultural irrigation more efficient. Precision agriculture is centered around the idea of site-specific farming – using only what you need (i.e., water, fertilizer, seeding rates, etc.) right when and where you need it.
“What we unveil here today is so important because water is the most precious resource we have,” said BMCC Board Chairman Chris Brown.
BMCC President Cam Preus thanked Fred Ziari of IRZ Consulting for his work in making the center a reality.
“We have to thank Fred Ziari who had the vision of this building before there even was a building,” said Preus. “He really pushed the idea of precision irrigated ag.”
Hamm thanked the area’s stakeholders for supporting HAREC over the decades.
“These are folks who have given us hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep the lights on,” he said. “This station represents economic development.”