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Officials from both Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College (NEO) and the Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA) have recently signed an agreement that will increase agricultural education opportunities and revitalize area agricultural production in conjunction with sound conservation management practices. Under the agreement, NEO will lease approximately 1,600 acres of land in the Neosho River Bottom (Ottawa County) from the GRDA in order to promote hands-on learning and increase not only scientific discovery, but also student understanding of natural resource preservation and management. “The NEO & GRDA agreement will create exciting new learning experiences for our Ag students and faculty,” said NEO President Dr. Jeff Hale. “Private-public partnerships continue to help NEO and other state colleges deal with massive reductions to public education. We appreciate the opportunity to work with CEO Dan Sullivan and his team and the support we continue to receive from the A and M Colleges Board of Regents. Local pecan producers have played a key role in the development of our joint NEO|GRDA agreement and will be key to the long-term success of this joint venture.”

“We’re excited about partnering with NEO to support educational and agricultural opportunities for here in Northeast Oklahoma,” said GRDA Chief Executive Officer Dan Sullivan. “At a time when many educational institutions are dealing with budget cuts, GRDA is pleased to be a part of an effort that is opening up new ways for students to get excited about learning while also supporting the local pecan producers.”

In leasing the land, NEO has arranged subleases to area pecan growers and cattle ranchers. This not only benefits NEO and the GRDA, but also revitalizes area production. In managing these subleases, NEO can offer students hands-on experience in several educational areas including grassland management, natural resource conservation, crop and cattle production, wildland fire management, and more. The program will also create employment opportunities for students, increased scholarship availability, and fellowship opportunities for NEO agriculture students. “The NEO Agriculture Department could not be more excited to embark on the educational partnership with GRDA,” said McKenzie Nygren, NEO Agriculture Department Chair. “In conjunction with area producers and subleasees identified jointly by NEO and GRDA officials, NEO students will lead efforts to share knowledge and management practices with community groups interested in aspects of crop production and general agricultural science. This combined effort provides benefits for students and the surrounding community alike.”

NEO is also announcing the first sublease, to be operated by Jim and Holly Hollon. Currently managing property near the sublease, the Hollons have grown pecans and managed cattle in the Miami area for several years, and are eager to expand their operation and manage a portion of this property. “Caring for the natural resources has always been at the core of the GRDA mission,” said GRDA Assistant General Manager of Ecosystems Dr. Darrell Townsend. “We’re looking forward to working with NEO and its students to continue to implement sound conservation management practices on this land in a way that will benefit everyone.”

The NEO|GRDA Agricultural Education Partnership will create opportunities in education for hundreds of NEO students and revitalize area orchard and cattle production. For more information on GRDA programs or schedule a GRDA speaker, contact Mr. Jason Alberty at JAlberty@GRDA.com. Or, to find out more about the agriculture program at NEO, contact Ms. McKenzie Nygren at McKenzie.Nygren@neo.edu.

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