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South Valley Riverton Journal

USU’s Bastian Agricultural Center to be world-class center—with or without Olympia Hills

Aug 05, 2019 11:26AM ● By Jennifer J Johnson

“Agriculture has a long and storied history of being linked to science and technology,” says the Utah State administrator responsible for the future Bastian Agricultural Center to be located in Southwest Quadrant. “There is more science and technology in agriculture than any field you can think of.” (Bastian Family Foundation)

By Jennifer J. Johnson | [email protected]

Long before then-teenage Doug Young set his sights on developing the Olympia Hills project in the southwest part of the Salt Lake Valley, a trio of entities had plans of its own.

Some 40 years ago, Utah State University, the area of Herriman and the storied Bastian family that has contributed so much to Southwest Valley quietly began a dialogue about a shared vision to carry on the Bastian Family’s agricultural contribution to the community through a center dedicated to agriculture.

According to Ken White, dean of USU’s College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences, the late David Bastian was the family member who pressed for the project. 

White told the South Valley Journal that, “a few years ago,” the decades-old conversations made their way into a presentation to members of the Bastian family—the same multi-generational Salt Lake County agricultural family after which Herriman’s Bastian Elementary is named.

White said USU officials pitched the “surviving sisters” of the Bastian family—Emily Markham and Mary Bastian—on a plan to establish what is now being presented as an agricultural-land preservation center.

The result of USU’s pitch is a 100-acre donation in the shape of what West Jordan resident and Salt Lake Farmers Market heirloom vegetables grower Patricia Messner describes as an organically grown cucumber.

If the Olympia Hills development receives its July request for rezoning of agriculture land to accommodate for Young’s high-density project—either from Salt Lake County or, as been proposed by planners and residents alike observing the project, from a neighboring city such as Herriman or South Jordan—the USU center will be a prominent anchor for the development.

Fully understand food

It has been “a long process,” said White, getting from the concept to what was announced to the SWQ community in late June will soon begin a swifter development process to transform 100 acres of farmland in unincorporated Salt Lake City into what visionary White sees as a world-class agriculture-education facility.

The Bastian Agricultural Center, announced in June in the middle of a tented field—best accessible by roads near the Herriman Cemetery—will seek to help urbanites and suburbanites alike fully understand where their food comes from, according to White.

The announcement of the center was touted by Olympia Hills public relations agency Love Communications as a “joint announcement” by USU and Olympia Hills, which, last month, re-applied for zoning-consideration changes with Salt Lake County to receive county council approval and develop its project.

White indicated the projects were “separate issues” and said the announcement was put together by USU, in close connection with the Bastian family and the Bastian Foundation board leadership.

It is an entirely new concept even for USU, an internationally-recognized agriculture-education institution, said White. He also says it will be “pretty unique” from a global perspective, with only a few locations in the Southeastern United States looking to offer anything like it.

“We really don’t have any entity that focuses on agriculture and agriculture programs and agriculture learning,” he said of USU’s extensive extension programs, distributed throughout Utah.

The four food groupings 

The center will be based on four components: natural resources; small-farm education as it relates to food; small-farm education as it relates to animal production; and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). 

Plans for the center include orchards and dry-farm demonstration plots, an amphitheater, a wetland discovery center, livestock activities, classroom/workshop space and open spaces for agricultural demonstrations and research, to highlight a few aspects. It also will include a community work space with a variety of tools, laser cutter, 3D printer, sewing machines, hand tools and more. It is planned that the center will be a long-term project, with the facilities built in phases.

Science? And agriculture?

When told that residents in the area are “having a hard time, wrapping their head around” what developer Young pitches as Olympia Hills featuring a campus where agriculture and STEM would coexist, White is quick to back Young up, noting that agriculture and STEM are incredibly closely linked.

“Agriculture has a long and storied history of being linked to science and technology,” the dean observed. “There is more science and technology in agriculture than any field you can think of.”