Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

Homeless vets shelter out, UT extension office in at county farm?

If the number of residents at last week’s County-Owned Property Committee meeting is any indication, the newest idea for use of the county farm may be the answer that pleases everyone.
“I guess the county farm is close to a lot of our hearts,” said County Commissioner Gearld Sparks, who grew up near the Washington County Greenfield Farm on Mt. Zion Road.
Sparks and fellow Commissioner Ben Bowman, both members of the Agriculture Extension Committee, attended the Nov. 6 meeting to propose designating the farm as the new site for the Washington County Extension Office, currently located on West Main Street in downtown Jonesborough.
The extension office is a partnership between Washington County government, the University of Tennessee, Tennessee State University and the United States Department of Agriculture. Programs are offered in the areas of agriculture and natural resources; family and consumer sciences; resource development; and 4-H youth development.
Sparks said the extension office has outgrown its current facility.
“The Cattlemen’s Association likes to meet there, but it’s not big enough,” he said. “Anything of any size has to be held at the fairgrounds or another site.”
Relocating to the county farm would offer the opportunity for greenhouses and some actual farming.
“We’d like to move into it and renovate it,” Sparks said.
Commissioner Alpha Bridger asked whether the extension office would be renting the facility.
Commissioner Doyle Cloyd followed up with a question regarding the biggest cost involved with renovating the site, which Sparks said was a heating unit.
Commissioner Mark Ferguson agreed any use would require heat and offered his support to the proposed move of the extension office.
“The opportunities are unreal on what could be done out there for 4-H, and I feel like the neighbors would accept it,” he said.
Prior to the proposal, the most recent idea for use of the county farm was as a transitional home for veterans who were forced to leave the VA due to tighter criteria regarding service as a treatment center rather than a housing facility, but funding sources were not readily identified.
In addition, poor communication with the public led to a misperception that the county was trying to solve Johnson City’s homelessness problem, leaders said.
“I don’t have any problem with veterans because I’m very patriotic, but I don’t want anyone living across the field from me that I’m afraid of,” resident Hazel Campbell said.
Residential space would not be part of the extension office site.
“As chair of the Agriculture Extension Committee, we are really pushed for space,” Bowman said. “It would be great for them to have the room and the additional parking.”
Bowman said the county farm would suit the purposes of the many programs offered in canning and horticulture.
Geraldine Treadway was another of the approximately 10 residents who came to voice their support for the plan.
“My property is adjacent to the farm, and I like Mr. Sparks’ idea,” she said.
Terry Jones agreed. “I think it would be a great use and a resource for schools and the community.”
Ferguson made a motion, seconded by Bridger, to recommend the commission set aside the county farm to be used for agriculture and determine what steps need to be taken to move the extension office to that site. The motion passed with unanimous approval.