It’s been nearly 15 years in the making.
Sam Houston State University plans to invest $13.5 million in upgrades to Gibbs Ranch. A move that the department head calls vital towards the future of the School of Agriculture Sciences, a program that prides itself on building educators and innovators in the industry.
“We have our academic mission from the university, but also have a USDA and national mission to train kids to go back to their family farms and ranches and make food,” said Dr. Doug Ullrich, the department chair for agriculture sciences.
University officials are planning for construction to start in 2021, pending approval from the Texas State University System Board of Regents.
The expanded facilities will include a new covered arena, an academic and rodeo training arena, a classroom and office building, a stall barn with an equine physiology lab, a hay and equipment storage barn and site amenities that include a horse walker and pens. However, Ullrich has plans for much more at the ranch on Hwy. 75 N.
“We started our focus in the 90s to move everything out to Gibbs Ranch, so we don’t have to haul animals from here to there or haul plants back and forth,” Ullrich said. But it’s not jut about moving everything to one location, it’s also about creating state-of-the-art facilities.
“We are kind of getting beat out for recruiting students by Texas A&M and Stephen F. Austin, and when you have only 200,000 kids in Texas taking agriculture classes in high school, it makes it a big disadvantage. We really need these facilities to continue to grow.”
University officials said the overall project could take years to complete, but Ullrich hopes to have the covered arena and new classrooms completed by the 2022 spring semester. Money for the project will come from Texas State University System bonds and gifts from a capital campaign. The university is also working with donors and system administration to establish a procurement strategy that facilitates donations of materials and labor.
Through private and public financial support, the department has established a number of goals aimed at making Gibbs Ranch into one of the premier agricultural teaching and research facilities in the U.S.
“Agriculture is an applied science and the ranch provides the necessary land and animal resources to serve as an integral component of instructional and research programs,” Ullrich noted.
The facility also serves as a demonstration farm for continuing education programs sponsored by the Texas Cooperative Extension Service.
“We have to look at our program like athletics. It’s not just bringing kinesiology majors, but hundreds of different students to the university that are in a bunch or different programs,” Ullrich said. “I look at us as that in-front program. We may not get the news media stuff that athletics does, but across the state people know our educators and know our program.”
Learn more about the School of Agriculture Sciences at www.shsu.edu/academics/agriculture.