New IFAS ag auditorium set to begin classes

UF/IFAS Alachua County Extension director Dr. Cynthia Sanders says she has a lot to be thankful for.

“I have to pinch myself to say this is real,” she says while standing in a giant teaching kitchen at the UF/IFAS Extension Alachua County and Ag Auditorium Building in Newberry.

On Nov. 30 a public ribbon-cutting ceremony will happen at 1 p.m. at the facility located at 22712 W. Newberry Road. The public is invited to attend and light refreshments will be served.

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Scheduled speakers at the event include Alachua County Manager Michele Lieberman, Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) Chair Marihelen Wheeler, University of Florida President Kent Fuchs, UF/IFAS dean Andra Johnson, Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe and Sanders.

According to Sanders, the new facility houses six extension faculty agents, three county-funded staff members and one program assistant.

The auditorium will be used for events and classes and can be divided into three classrooms that will hold 108 students per section, which equates to 324 student capacity when all three are operating.

Classroom at the new Ag Auditorium Building in Newberry

The extension is wasting no time filling the classrooms with a lineup of classes starting Dec. 1.

Martha Maddox, family and consumer sciences agent, will launch the series of classes starting with “Cinnamon for the Holidays” from 9 a.m. to noon on Dec. 1 (cost is $15), followed by “Holiday Gift Ideas” from 10 a.m. to noon and again 6-8 p.m. on Dec. 2 (cost is $20)

On Dec. 6 Maddox will teach the course “Holiday Herbs with Dinner in Minutes” from 10 a.m. to noon and again 6-8 p.m. (cost is $20)

Sanders says the teaching kitchen is overwhelming in a good way, with stainless steel all around.

When the two 65-inch TVs on backorder arrive, they will show Maddox as she teaches so that students can watch her handiwork.

“If we’re in here with 4-H kids doing food challenges, we have these stations,” Sanders says as she points to three stainless steel tables. 

Sanders also points to the GardenChef herb and micro green growing cabinet in the corner and says Maddox will grow herbs and mustard greens for upcoming classes.

In January, a canning class is on the schedule, and Sanders says she expects it to be very popular.

Two new art installations adorn the facility.

Stained glass at the new Ag Auditorium Building in Newberry

A wall of stained glass panels by an artisan from Italy brightens the lobby area, and outside a 10-foot tall metal tree with native insects, birds and plant designs serves as an education complete with a key to identify each species on it.

“The tree arrived last week and it lights up with a key for insects, birds and plants,” Sanders says, noting her gratitude to all who made the Alachua County Ag Auditorium a reality. “Thank you Board of County Commissioners, Florida Department of Ag and City of Newberry.”

For more information about these programs contact Maddox at 352-955-2402.

Dr. Cynthia Sanders stands beside outdoor art

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