How do you recognize something as truly exceptional? When a crowd willingly gathers under scorching, record-breaking heat to witness speeches and even engage in shoveling dirt, you can sense the significance.
Nearly 100 people braved the blistering 100-degree heat on August 25, coming together to commemorate the groundbreaking of the DeSoto County Ag-Ed Center and Arena. “This is a day we’ve been working on for more than 10 years,” said Supervisor Lee Caldwell. “We are driven
by the vision of protecting our agricultural roots, while equipping citizens for living in one of the most vibrant and fastest growing counties. This is the heart the DeSoto County Ag-Ed Center and Arena.”
The expansive 200-acre project, located at 1170 Star Landing Road, is not only located in the center of the county, it is reflective of the wants and needs of many in the county. A centerpiece of the project is the 2,000-seat indoor arena, accompanied by a sheltered outdoor arena, a stable, a versatile community building with classrooms & learning labs, a three-mile paved walking/running path, a c, RV park, tennis and pickleball courts, as well as ball fields.
“We did a very exhaustive study with our partners at Mississippi State and found that this was a great project,” said Supervisor Mark Gardner. “An exploratory committee made up for community members toured agricultural centers across Mississippi and neighboring states to see what worked best.”
There are about 400 farms in DeSoto County with a total market value of about $50 million. The County is 11th in the state for growing fruits and vegetables. Supervisor Jessie Medlin, who raises cows and grows hay, talked about farming and the importance of agriculture in the County. “I am proud to say I grew up on a farm. It teaches you the value of hard work and responsibility,” said Supervisor Medlin. “Not many kids can grow up on a farm, that’s why 4-H is such a great program. It introduces students to a number of vocations, offering choices beyond the conventional path of college education."
The Ag-Ed Center will also house the DeSoto County Extension office, offices for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the DeSoto County Soil & Water Conservation District. “The Ag-Ed Center will be a place to not only celebrate our agricultural roots, but to also teach kids a little bit about country life,” said Supervisor Michael Lee. “This is a quality of life issue we are talking about.”
The Ag-Ed Center & Arena is expected to host barrel racing events, rodeos, and livestock shows. Once complete, the Ag-Ed Center is expected to be the new home of the Mid-South Fair. “Because we will have amenities for farm animals, we expect the Mid-South Fair to return to its roots when it moves to the Ag-Ed Center,” said Supervisor Ray Denison. “We want that atmosphere here.”
In addition to convention space, The Ag-Ed Center will offer classrooms and learning labs. “As a former teacher, I know the importance of having a place can bring students to experience what they are learning about,” said Supervisor Lee Caldwell. “When you’re talking about different types of plants like, monocots and dicots, you can come to the Ag-Ed Center and we can show you examples of them growing and we can show you cotton and soybeans growing. There are great educational opportunities here.”
The first phase of the $19 million project is expected to be complete by the spring of 2025. The National Guard will begin building a new armory next to the Ag-Ed Center property in the next few years.
In the sweltering heat and with resolute spirits, the groundbreaking ceremony showcased not only the physical start of construction, but also marked the start of something special – a place where dreams and community spirit come together – the DeSoto County Ag-Ed Center and Arena.