San Joaquin Delta College is considering the possible sell of the 160-acre farm in Manteca.
But opponents to the sale have already emerged.
Dr. Kathy Hart, Superintendent/President of Delta College, emphasized the need for calm.
“I like to say to people when they get all excited about this, ‘If this project is a yardstick, we’re at like one sixteenth of an inch,’” Hart said.
The Manteca Center Farm Laboratory lies northwest of the Lathrop Road exit off of Highway 99.
The farm serves animal husbandry, plant science and soil science students and harbors numerous almond varieties as well as sheep, horses and cattle.
The property was purchased in 1966 and has been cared for by many faculty members, including former instructor Dean McNeilly, who was hired in 1963.
McNeilly spoke before the Board of Trustees on Nov. 19 about the unsuitability of a proposed replacement site for Delta’s Agriculture program.
The replacement site is land located on Liberty Road in Galt.
“Think about the problems you have getting water, taking care of the sewage, natural gas and the development of infrastructure,” said McNeilly “It’d take years to resolve, and the development would be extremely expensive.”
Hart said studies of the new site, along with information obtained from the state “do not agree with the people who say that it’s not a good site.”
Delta Plant Science and Agricultural Business Professor Todd Burnett also opposes the sale.
He views such an exchange as yet another concession by the agricultural community to developers and local government fee-collectors.
“We’re talking about taking something that’s paid for, that’s a learning laboratory and converting it to houses,” Burnett stated before the Board of Trustees on Oct. 15. “And I just can’t condone urban sprawl.”
Delta’s Academic Senate is also opposed to the sale saying it would be better to preserve the existing lab.
At the trustee meeting, Academic Senate President Diane Oran read a resolution calling for current preservation of the lab “instead of starting anew, with costly buildings, classrooms and irrigation systems.”
Hart said it’s important to keep an open mind.
“What I keep asking people is, don’t just reject this idea out of hand,” Hart said. “We know that this land in Manteca is worth [a lot] of money.”
The land has an estimated value of $21 million.
Hart said these funds could be used for “desperately needed” repairs to the main campus, as well as for an improved agricultural program.
She maintains that agricultural studies would remain a priority.
“[Agriculture] would be the focus of those things that we would do,” said Hart during the meeting.