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Journagan Ranch provides a real world farming experience

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Posted: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 11:58 am, Tue Feb 28, 2012.

This year will be the first year that the William H. Darr School of Agriculture will be in total operation of the Journagan Ranch, a $7 million donation of agricultural land in Douglas County. Since the donation became official in the summer of 2010, the land has fostered internships, classes, extensive research and frequent student visits.

Leo Journagan, a friend of the university and founder of Journagan Construction Company, gifted the school of agriculture 3,300 acres of land, 1,000 animals and a variety of equipment, confident that the students and faculty would be able to utilize its resources.

The land, described admirably by its visitors, includes flowing hills, ponds, huge fields, streams, woods, a collection of wildlife and much more. Students, faculty and alumni have shown endless amounts of appreciation for the gift that will allow for hands-on education and research in a variety of disciplines.

Weston Paulik, a senior majoring in animal science, had the opportunity to intern on the ranch for nearly three months this past summer. While working at the ranch, Paulik primarily helped with hay, numerous cattle, calves and heifers.

"I was really excited about the ranch and thought it was really cool," Paulik said. "It gives students the opportunity to see how things work in the real world. The Journagan Ranch is a real world, operating farm. It exposes students to a number of things you can't see in a classroom or from a slideshow. It's just like doing hay. There's only one way to really learn how to do it and that's getting out there, getting on the tractor and doing it."

Anson Elliott, head of the William H. Darr School of Agriculture, said his main emotion was excitement when he received confirmation of the donation. Repeatedly rejecting suggestions of going out and buying land, Elliott said he knew there would be a donation at some point.

"Besides the excitement, along with it came the real nervousness of responsibility," Elliott said. "I mean, you have to make it into something that this family is proud of and that our students can really use. And then it's a $7 million donation. That is a huge operation."

Along with receiving over 3,000 acres of educational possibilities, the school also received a major statistic, giving Missouri State nationwide attention.

"One thing I can say with certainty is that the gift of cattle makes MSU the university with the largest purebred herd of any breed in the U.S.," Elliott said. "This gift is of the Hereford breed, which is historic and is in the mainstream with today's producer's desire for productivity and the consumer's desire for taste and tenderness."

Melissa Hudson, an assistant professor of animal science, has headed the beef cattle program for the agriculture school since the fall of 2010. As the transition to owning the ranch comes full circle, Hudson said she hopes to expand the program past the point of research for students interested in beef cattle production and nutrition.

"Our goal right now is to get as much student involvement, exposure and impact as we can and get them down there to begin getting that experience for them while continuing to develop," Hudson said.

Although the beef at Journagan Ranch has the potential to be sold to local consumers, Hudson said the process of getting to that point looks more like a 5- to 10-year plan, with research grants paving the way.

"The statewide image of the ranch has been incredible. It sets us apart," Elliot said. "We are getting talk from students that never thought about Missouri State. It helps to recruit other students; that's how I look at anything like the Journagan Ranch."

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