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Ohio State University planning to sell its longtime sheep farm

COLUMBUS, Ohio — What has been the grazing home to sheep for the past 64 years will be sold to the city of Columbus.

The Ohio State University, rich in its tradition of research of all kinds of farm animals, is selling its 58-acre sheep farm near OSU’s Don Scott Field in northwestern Columbus. The property is located near the airport at 2400 W. Case Road. The land was solely used for the school’s sheep program, but may be turned into a city park.

“The sale would move farm animals off the property and the city might develop it into public park space,” said Robin Davis, Mayor Andy Ginther’s spokeswoman.

The sheep unit at OSU provides animals for teaching and extension purposes in genetics, nutrition and reproduction. Animals at this location are used in 8-10 courses throughout the school year in various judging contests and clinics.

To this day, the sheep unit maintains a flock of 60-70 brood ewes. This number includes about 50 Dorsets and 15-20 Suffolk and Hampshire ewes in production. Lamb numbers may vary from none to 120 at any point in time. Two llamas are maintained year-round for predator control.

But now, a new home must be found for the sheep and the 30 paddocks that housed them.

“Myself and a number of members in the community have been advocating the city to buy the sheep farm and turn it into a community hub,” said Roy Wentzel of the Columbus Northwest Blues, a neighborhood grassroots group in the area. “We’d like to see a library or rec center there.”

William and Arla Lane donated the property in March 1954. OSU has used the land for its sheep program and to produce forage for its beef cattle. Since the acreage is titled to the state, the university had to acquire approval from the state legislature before putting the parcel up for sale. That legislation was approved earlier this year.

University officials want to have a would-be developer follow a “vision” for the property created by a planning consultant and have input from local residents.

Former president of the Northwest Civic Assoc., John Ehlers, said he first became aware the sheep farm was being considered for sale about 15 months ago when state Rep. Mike Duffey contacted him.

Since that time Ehlers said association representatives and neighbors of the property have been meeting to brainstorm ideas for what people would like to see when the site is developed. He said people who would like to see the entire sheep farm transformed into a park are likely to be disappointed, as some proceeds might go back into the university’s Waterman Farm.

The 261-acre Waterman Farm, located on campus at the northwest corner of Kenny Road and Lane Avenue, include the Turfgrass Foundation Research & Education Facility, the Waterman Dairy Facility, the Rothenbuhler Honey Bee Research Lab, the Waterman Headquarters Building, the SENRL Woodlot and acres of irrigated and non-irrigated plots.

Collectively these facilities provide comprehensive research, teaching and outreach opportunities in the areas of turf science, dairy management and research, entomology, ecological engineering, agricultural systems management, sustainable agriculture, food science, agronomic and horticultural production practices.

OSU’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences wants to raise money to spend on the Waterman Farm, and proceeds from the sale of the sheep farm might be designated for that.

According to a report by Columbus Business First, the mayor’s office confirmed the city is negotiating with OSU and plans to enter into an agreement via letter of intent sometime this month.

Officials at the university say they expect the request for proposals from potential developers to be ready by the end of the year. It would then take 3-4 months to evaluate proposals before a potential purchaser is selected, and about a year after that for the rezoning to occur.

According to a report by Moody’s Investors Service, selling the land could boost the university’s coffers by $20 million-$30 million.