The Commerce Journal

September 5, 2012

Indoor arena set to be completed this year

By Caleb Slinkard
The Commerce Journal

COMMERCE — As manager of the Texas A&M University-Commerce Animal Science Educational Farm, Chris Ellason has a lot on his plate.

To begin with, there are the approximately 1,500 acres on both sides of Highway 24 that the university owns that Ellason manages.

Then, there are the 130 head of cattle in three herds (commercial, pure-bred Angus and Hereford); the 45 horses (quarter horses and thoroughbreds), the 18 goats and the five hogs he’s in charge of, not to mention A&M-Commerce faculty and staff he interacts with and students who work and learn on the farm.

“There’s never a dull day out here,” Ellason said. “I really enjoy working with animals. I’m fortunate enough to be using the college degree I earned here at A&M-Commerce.”

Ellason earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the university, where he worked as a student cutting the grass at Memorial Stadium. Ellason has just completed his first year as farm manager after filling a teaching role for six years.

“I try to run the farm like a business, but it is also an educational facility,” he said. “My goal is to get some quality offspring to sell to 4-H and high schools in the area to help them out, and raise money for the program.”

The newest addition to the farm is a large steel building that contractors hope to finish by November. The building will serve as an indoor arena for the Equine Center and will allow them to train and compete, even in harsh conditions.

“Our program is all about hands-on experience for the students,” Ellason said. “The skills they learn here, they’ll use for life.”

Ellason and his staff are responsible for caring for the dozens of animals on the farm, even during the summer and winter breaks.

“It’s a little bit of a labor of love, and it can be challenging at times,” he said.

According to Ellason, the farm’s relationship with agricultural science professors and the A&M-Commerce administration is top notch.

“We get a lot of support from the administration,” he said. “They help us out as much as they can.”

The educational farm includes the Equine Center, Beef Cattle Center, Swine Center, Goat Center and the Farm Shop.

According to the university’s website, the Beef Cattle Center was completed in the spring of 2010. Two greenhouses sit on the farm, along with a refurbished agronomy lab. Twin Oaks Blueberry Farm also sits near the educational farm, although picking for 2012 is over.