NEW RICHMOND -- After finally getting approval from the Federal Aviation Administration in August 2019 to construct new buildings at the New Richmond SOAR Center, New Richmond High School agriscience teacher Rachel Sauvola and her students have been working fervently to raise funds and start work on the next phase of projects.

“In the evaluation of what we need first at the SOAR Center, we determined that in order to build this more technological, larger beef barn, we also needed our outdoor classroom space and arena. We are getting a lot more equipment from grants that we have written and we just need a good larger space to store things, and then have that classroom piece of it,” Sauvola said. “The large arena building will offer us that classroom and then also feed and equipment storage, as well as a kitchen where we could begin to host some events and do some things that can also generate some income as well.”

Among the ways Sauvola and her students are attempting to raise funds is through a “Buy A Brick” program, which will allow community members to purchase a brick to highlight a person, family or business. In addition to the brick program, people and businesses can make donations directly to Sauvola at the school district or through the Agriculture Education Fund with the New Richmond Community Foundation.

“We will use those bricks in a picnic pavilion piece down the road. Those will then be able to be on display as people come to events and celebrations,” Sauvola said. “Our donation structure is not like silver, platinum or gold. But it is tiered towards animals and the size of the animal as you increase the size of your donation.

“Most importantly, we have those honey bees, which are perpetual pollinators, that are donated year after year," she added. "We do have several of those that have been on board with us since 2017, and one of them even lives in New York.”

This past year, the SOAR Center attempted to sell Christmas trees, but the big winter storm in November caused the idea the fall through. However, there are still trees available to allow the SOAR Center to sell them again next Christmas season.

“As we do this, we know that there are community partners, such as the New Richmond Tree Service which is coming in to help us with some tree removal this winter. They are also getting this brand new machine which they will debut at the SOAR Center. That just speaks to the community collaboration that this site can really be,” Sauvola said.

Cows are one of the many different types of animals NRHS students take care of at the SOAR Center. Submitted photo
Cows are one of the many different types of animals NRHS students take care of at the SOAR Center. Submitted photo

Another avenue for fundraising Sauvola is looking at is a grain exchange, where a farmer who might not be able to write a check to make a contribution can donate some grain, and then the money from selling the grain would come into the Ag Education fund through the foundation.

“The SOAR Center is the only one like it in the state with this kind of focus and the broad range of getting more than one species on the farm to produce meat for school lunch,” Sauvola said. “The community has just been extraordinary in these beginning stages, from time and talent and treasure that has all been donated. We are just really excited to see what comes next and how we can work more quickly toward the goal of getting 16 head of cattle into school lunch every year to supply our needs. And to be the only supplier of the beef that we use in the school lunch.”

With another five head of cattle scheduled to go into the school lunch program within the next few months, the SOAR Center will account for nearly 10,000 pounds of beef being used in school lunches.

Although there is a feeling of excitement circling the SOAR Center’s future, there are still several things which need to be completed before many of the larger projects can be started.

“To make the beef barn come to fruition, we also have to excavate and dig another well. So we’ve got a half a million dollars in needs to get this first phase off the ground. Then as we push forward for the other things, those will come a little easier because some of the infrastructure has to be done first,” Sauvola said.

Those interested in a tour of the SOAR Center can set up an appointment through Sauvola and the nine students who take care of the daily upkeep of the center this semester.

To schedule a tour, a SOAR Center presentation or find out how to donate to the project, contact New Richmond High School agriscience teacher Rachel Sauvola at 715-243-1761 or rsauvola@newrichmond.k12.wi.us. To donate through the New Richmond Community Foundation, visit nracfoundation.com/ways-to-give.

“It is also important to note that on the foundation website, there is a PayPal link so people can donate electronically if writing a check is not something they want to do. As long as they make sure to designate that the money goes to the Ag Ed fund in the special description,” Sauvola said. “People can choose to donate monthly if they’d like. Some people might choose to do matching funds. There are all sorts of ways in which we need help and can obtain help.”