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Virginia Flanagan isn't one to count her chickens before they're hatched.
If she were, the executive director of the Kentucky Agriculture Heritage Center would be busy beyond imagination.
Before she leaves Taylor County every morning, she checks on the nearly one million fowl being raised on her family farm. By the time she arrives at her office just north of Harrodsburg, a million seems like a drop in the bucket.
Most of the 65-year-old ex-English teacher's time is spent diagramming ways to come up with the many millions needed to get the heritage center off the ground.
The center received a major boost this summer when Governor Steve Beshear delivered a check for $11 million in Kentucky Agricultural Development Funds for the architectural design development, marketing, promotion, and construction of the facility.
The grand showcase for the past, present, and future of Kentucky Agriculture will be built with state and private funding on 50 acres of the 7,200-acre Anderson Circle Farm owned by Mercer County farmer and businessman Ralph Anderson. A number of different locations were considered for the operation, but the decision to locate here was made in April of 2006 when Anderson offered to donate the property. Organizers were also swayed by the central location to all Kentuckians.
Plans are for the center to open by 2010, but Flanagan is cautiously optimistic it will be ready even sooner.
"It all depends on the fund-raising," says the former director for the Kentucky History Center in Frankfort and Campbellsville University Technology Training Center.
"We won't start construction until we know we have enough money to finish it," she said. "We have a company doing a business plan for us, and once we nail down all our costs in the next month or two, we should know the scope of our activities and be able to do things like set admission fees. We want something everyone can be proud of and a place where important work can be done... a first class operation from the start."
Expected to attract thousands, not only from Kentucky but throughout the United States, the center will include a 300,000 square foot building showcasing technology and providing workspaces and resources, recreational activities and entertainment. The state's agricultural history will be displayed through hands-on activities such as a walking farm tour, demonstrations, expositions and virtual agricultural experiences. One of the highlights will be a Kentucky Agriculture Hall of Fame recognizing Kentuckians for their contributions to the industry. Nominees will be sought from the public and installed "with much pomp and circumstance," says the director.
Flanagan expects lots of nominations due to the state's being a leader in agriculture for so many years.
"There are so many things of which people may not be aware, such as the fact no-till farming was developed at UK," she said.
Currently, oral histories are being gathered from across the state with the goal of using them along with interactive exhibits and as part of occasional drama skits.
"Some of these should also be of help in describing the many artifacts we will have on display," she said.
One display feature that could draw criticism is space devoted to the tobacco industry.
"Some people have asked what we are going to do about tobacco. It will be front and center because it has been a big part of Kentucky agriculture history. We won't be promoting it, but we won't deny it either, because it's a big part of what we have been and what we are in this state," said Flanagan.
Kentucky-grown products will be served in a restaurant on the site and available for purchase in a gift shop.
Another area will be set aside as a certified kitchen in which people may schedule time to make non-commercial jellies and jams for personal use or to place in competition at fairs and festivals.
Georgia is the only other state currently supporting a similar operation, but it is lacking a unique feature planned here that could serve as a model for future facilities.
Growing out of a desire to keep monthly bills at a minimum and protect the environment, architects have come up with features that should make the facility 100 percent energy independent.
Energy conservation is included in every aspect of the design, including incorporating a geothermal heat pump that will allow the earth to absorb and reject heat from the building. This feature alone is expected to reduce heating and cooling costs by 25 to 40 percent.
Also stressed will be the use of natural ventilation, daylight harvesting, and electrochromatic glass.
There will be no asphalt or concrete on the property, allowing water to be absorbed and directed to a basin from which it will be used throughout the farm.
By using a combination of wind turbines and solar panels, the facility power will be generated from clean, non-depletable resources, which are inflation proof and not subject to the factors of the market.
Adding energy-saving features are more costly at the outset, but installation costs are recovered in seven to nine years, according to the experts.
"If I had used the same methods we will employ here in my chicken houses, I would be saving a thousand dollars a month," said Flanagan.