Ohio Farmer

The Multispecies Animal Learning Center will seek to advance workforce development in animal agriculture.

Jennifer Kiel, Editor, Michigan Farmer and Ohio Farmer

February 14, 2024

4 Min Read
A 3D rendering of the new Multispecies Animal Learning Center at Ohio State University
ARTIST RENDERING: The Multispecies Animal Learning Center is designed to bring people and animals together, and support education for students at Ohio State University, in grades K through 12, and across the life span. Courtesy of Ohio State University

There’s no better learning than “hands-on,” and Ohio State University intends to provide even more direct interaction with students and the public as it moves forward with a new $52 million, state-of-the art complex.

Inside the facility, students will have opportunities to gain hands-on experience with swine, equine, poultry, cattle, sheep and goats. At its core, the Multispecies Animal Learning Center seeks to advance workforce development in animal agriculture. 

The College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) broke ground Jan. 30, and it will build the MALC at the Waterman Agricultural and Natural Resources Laboratory on the Columbus campus. Opening is expected in fall 2025.

OSU recognizes that agriculture requires a growing workforce, and MALC is part of the greater vision for Waterman to be a center of science education and workforce development, says Pasha Lyvers Peffer, chair of the OSU Department of Animal Sciences.

“Through engaging students early, we aim to create a pipeline for agricultural careers,” she says.

Ken Chamberlain - A group of people shoveling dirt from a box at a groundbreaking event for a new facilty

Facilitating education in essential STEM fields, the MALC is designed to foster workforce development in careers such as animal sciences, engineering, food science, human nutrition and health.

The MALC and associated pastures along Lane Avenue aim to bring together teaching and Extension activities.

As an expansion of the original MALC project, a new modern dairy will also be constructed at Waterman to replace the aging dairy facility. The facility is expected to be completed by winter 2025, and it will feature robotic milking technology and the latest in precision dairy technologies, feed systems and waste management.

“The combination of classroom, wet lab and animal space provides for dynamic and interactive learning,” Peffer says. “More time can be spent demonstrating versus discussing practices. The proximity of the facility reduces barriers to offering these experiences.”

It’s not only for students. OSU wants to engage the public in sharing the importance of food production and the science behind the how and why things are done in raising agricultural animals.

“There can be many negative perceptions that surround agriculture, but often these negative perceptions stem from a lack of knowledge or understanding of the practices used in the industries,” Peffer says. “Through the MALC, we can not only tell the story, but also show the story of how animals are raised.”

The center hopes to dramatically grow the more than 20,000 visits a year (pre-COVID-19) to Waterman during the next five years, educating the public about modern livestock production with tours, a viewing area into the animal barns and interactive, educational displays.

OSU - A blueprint style layout of the interior fo a building

Cathann A. Kress, vice president for agricultural administration and dean of CFAES, calls it a game changer.

“It’s going to bring schoolchildren, in grades K through 12, here to learn about career pathways,” she says. “It’s going to engage people from all across our industry. And it's going to be a place where all of us can learn more about the work of the university and our industry.”

Additionally, it will provide space for youth development programs, such as 4-H and FFA, and their events.

CFAES is fundraising while moving forward with MALC construction. At present, $16.4 million has been secured, including a $10 million investment allocated in the state budget and a $4 million commitment from Nationwide received in November.

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About the Author(s)

Jennifer Kiel

Editor, Michigan Farmer and Ohio Farmer

While Jennifer is not a farmer and did not grow up on a farm, "I think you'd be hard pressed to find someone with more appreciation for the people who grow our food and fiber, live the lifestyles and practice the morals that bind many farm families," she says.

Before taking over as editor of Michigan Farmer in 2003, she served three years as the manager of communications and development for the American Farmland Trust Central Great Lakes Regional Office in Michigan and as director of communications with Michigan Agri-Business Association. Previously, she was the communications manager at Michigan Farm Bureau's state headquarters. She also lists 10 years of experience at six different daily and weekly Michigan newspapers on her impressive resume.

Jennifer lives in St. Johns with her two daughters, Elizabeth, 19, and Emily 16.

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