The University of Idaho has purchased a 6-acre site in Jerome County for an education and outreach complex for the Idaho Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (CAFE).
The acquisition is another major step to create the country’s largest research dairy — a $45 million project 15 years in the making. The research center will focus on the environmental, economic and social sustainability of dairy farming and allied industries.
At the end of February, the university and Idaho Dairymen’s Association jointly purchased 540 acres for the research dairy near Rupert for $4.5 million.
The purchase of property for the education and outreach complex marks an important advance in realizing the overall goal of CAFE, Michael Parrella, dean of the university’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, said in announcing the acquisition on Friday.
“CAFE will help Idaho’s important dairy industry and the broader agricultural and business communities in the state by improving their sustainability so they remain a vital foundation of Idaho’s economy,” he said.
The purchase price of the property for the complex was $900,000 and includes a substantial gift component through a discounted selling price, said Jim Miller, CAL’s director of development and capital projects analyst and CAFE campaign manager.
“It really made it possible to do with the current university budget,” he said.
The purchase price of the property for the research dairy — which will eventually have 2,000 cows and 1,000 acres of associated cropland — also included a substantial gift component by the sellers, he said.
“We’re excited about the momentum. … We’re excited to have a stake in the ground at both locations,” he said.
The CAFE Discovery Complex will be on Highway 93 north of the intersection of Interstate 84 at the Crossroads Point Business Center a few miles north of Twin Falls. It will include a public visitor center, faculty offices, laboratories, classrooms and faculty and student housing.
That interchange is the second-busiest in Idaho, used by 40,000 vehicles a day, Miller said.
It offers “great publicity and visibility for the site,” and the university and other organizations will use the complex to tell the story of Idaho agriculture, not just dairy, he said.
The complex has garnered a lot of interest and will also benefit southern Idaho as an agritourism draw, he said.
In addition to the complex and research dairy, CAFE will include a food-processing pilot plant for food-processing education and research in partnership with the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls.
In addition to Idaho Dairymen’s Association, CAFE is supported by the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation — which has committed $100,000 to the project — and the Jerome 20/20 economic development organization.
It has also received contributions or pledges of support from Glanbia, the Idaho Barley Commission and retired dairy producers.
The university will contribute $15 million toward the $45 million project. The Idaho Legislature has appropriated $10 million with another $5 million anticipated as the project progresses. The other $15 million will depend on industry support.
The Discovery Complex is expected to open in 2023. Environmental baseline research has already begun on the research dairy, which is expected to begin milking in 2024.