Agricultural Education is a “Hands-On” Experience in DNR Partnership with Southwest Washington School District

Center for Agriculture, Science,  & Environmental Education, Battle Ground, WA

The Battle Ground School District has turned an 80-acre parcel leased from DNR into a thriving center for agriculture education.

DNR-managed trust land in Brush Prairie, just south of Battle Ground, is providing students and community members with ready access to a host of learning opportunities and services. The Battle Ground School District leases 80 acres of Common School Trust land from DNR at market value. On this lease, the school district’s Center for Agricultural, Science and Environmental Educational provides a unique outdoor (hands-on) agricultural learning experience for students. The outdoor learning opportunities include a fruit orchard, greenhouse, nursery, and garden. Students also get a taste of the agriculture marketplace by taking part in fund-raising events to sell their plants and produce.

The school district subleases a portion of the agricultural land for blackberry and strawberry production, providing further learning opportunities for students. Timber and recreation management, an arboretum, botanical gardens, ponds, and science and computer labs provide additional lease opportunities.

This land lease serves as an agricultural community hub by housing an array of services, including offices of the WSU Cooperative Extension, Farm Service Agency, USDA Rural Development, Clark County Noxious Weed Control, and Clark Conservation District. The Battle Ground School District office also is located on the lease site. Over the longterm, the school district hopes to purchase the entire 80-acre parcel from DNR. When that happens, DNR will invest the proceeds into purchasing replacement income-producing state trust land.

DNR derives trust income from this parcel by establishing land rent based on the highest and best use of each of the five land uses permitted through the lease. These include: irrigated agriculture, dry land agriculture, storage and composting demonstration, experimental forest, and administrative buildings and classrooms. At five-year intervals, the value of each permitted use is updated and the rent adjusted.

The DNR partnership with the Battle Ground School District has served trust beneficiaries, the school district, students, and the local community very well by generating trust income, consolidation of services, and most important, providing a unique and valuable learning opportunity for children.

By Pat Hennessy, DNR Western Washington Lease Manager, pat.hennessey@dnr.wa.gov