Daniel Bolen provides an update on the Elgin School District BARN and FFA Clubhouse Projects

By on Friday, March 29th, 2024 in More Top Stories Northeastern Oregon News

ELGIN – Recently the Elgin School District announced that they had been awarded a grant from the Oregon Department of Education to be used for the “Building Agricultural Resource Networks (BARN) project.   According to the district, “The BARN Project builds on plans from the Elgin School District to develop an Agricultural Learning Lab space on property recently acquired by the school district in the industrial zone south of Elgin.”

Elkhorn Media Group staff (EMG) spoke with Agricultural Science & Technology Instructor, FFA Advisor and CTE Director Daniel Bolen (DB) about this program and how things are processing so far. 

(EMG) Thanks for speaking with me Daniel, let’s start with a basic overview of how this all got started and what this means for the students.

(DB) So the school district, school board, and Superintendent Greif identified several years ago that they felt it was extremely important to provide an opportunity for students through the agriculture program to have expanded opportunities for hands on learning, as well as provide a place for students who don’t live on their own rural acreages to be able to raise and produce their own market animals. They identified the values and skills and experiences that students get when they care for and manage and produce their own animals and realize that this is a great opportunity for how we can grow and develop great leaders for the future.

And so, we kind of went through this process of trying to find the right fit and where we could go with things.  The last fiscal biennium, we had applied for a different revitalization grant in cooperation with the Imbler Ag Program and were funded for that and part of what we had included in that was $50,000 to buy some land.  Then the vision kind of grew and developed and the district ended up contributing even more than the $50,000 and we ended up procuring three different lots in the industrial park that total about 10 acres

(EMG) How many students do you anticipate will benefit from this program, at least this year?

(DB) So the BARN Project specifically, part of the way we wrote the grant for the revitalization grant is that in addition to the facilities we’re creating for students, we are also we’re going to try to do as much of the work as we legally can to build the barn with students.

We estimate that the direct exposure just through the construction process of the barn as well as doing fence building and all those things associated with getting the project up and running. We’re looking at about 100 to 120 students just right off in this first year and then as the facility gets created, the opportunities are going to be open to beyond just the students who enrolled in Ag classes but also for those 4H members that are in elementary school who will have the opportunity to use that facility.  One of the things that we do every year is, it’s called elementary AG Day, where we have a combination of a petting zoo and some informational stations and activities for kids to learn about the different facets of agriculture, so we actually reach about every student in the district. Which is in the ballpark of around 600 students through the course of the year. 

(EMG) You mentioned doing as much of the work as you can yourselves, will that include students?

(DB) Yes, that’s that part of how we wrote the grant proposal to the Department of Education.  Specifically, as a state that in a housing shortage, there is significant focus from the state on providing opportunities and construction careers. And so, partnering with our construction program here, who’s just finished up building the house, to do some of this work and basically everything that we legally can that we can get out and do with students, whether that’s interior finishes or siding installation and or some of the basic plumbing under the guidance of a of a certified plumber, and those sorts of things.

(EMG) Where in the process is this all right now?

(DB) Where we are at is, we have pretty much our final set of plans.  We’ve been pushing those out to some different contractors for some feedback before we send those plans off to an engineer for an engineer stamp.

The cogs of the Oregon fiscal processes are kind of slow and so while we received notification that we’ve been funded for the grant, The Department of Education has no real timeline on when the money will actually be available for us to use.  So, we probably won’t have any real official groundbreaking until we’ve got some money to actually be able to spend just because it is going to be such an expensive project we don’t want to be dipping into the districts coffers to much to float the money until we know when we are going to get it.

(EMG) Great information.  Anything else you want to let people know about?

(DB) The other part that is kind of associated with the whole concept, but not specifically the BARN Project is the FFA Clubhouse space that the school district bought that’s on one of those three lots that the district acquired. It used to be an old farm supply store, right on the highway, and we have started the process of renovating that space. It’s going to have a commercial kitchen and a large meeting space, as well as a classroom space, and it will be intended as kind of a community and school organization building that they can use for different purposes, whether that’s hosting a school dance in it, or the local 4H needs a meeting space, or private entities can also rent the space out. It will have a commercial kitchen and ADA bathrooms so it will provide another alternative for a space for rent for organizations in the community. Fundraisers like our drive through BBQ will move out to that location once we have our kitchen up and running.

So, that process of gutting that out and getting floor work done this spring so that we can start actually doing some of the remodel work.  We have managed to piece together some different donations as well as a couple of grants that I had written and acquired earlier to work on that space as well.

(EMG) I look forward to following along with this project as it moves forward.  Thanks Daniel for all this information. 

Learn more about the ODE Grant and the BARN Project at