SANDPOINT, Idaho (AP) — An orchard in Sandpoint will be the site of the University of Idaho's new Sandpoint Organic Agriculture Center.

The orchard was donated Aug. 1 to the university by Dennis Pence and his family, the Capital Press reported .

It is the first center in the institution's system to focus on organic farming and production systems, according to the college.

The university and Pence share a desire to support local food systems, train students in sustainability and organic production, develop heritage varieties of crops, including apples, and focus on nutrition, said Michael Parrella, dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

Pence said he was pleased with the interest of Parrella and the university, and the enthusiasm in expanding educational activities for organic and sustainable agriculture.

"The creation of the (center) places the university among an elite group of U.S. institutions of higher learning, and the center will be an immensely useful asset for education, research and public outreach in the years to come," Pence said.

The donated land includes an office building and meeting center, residence for visiting researchers, dormitory, shop and cider house. The orchard grows 68 varieties of apples, cherries, plums, pears and berries.

Parrella declined to give an estimated value for the orchard.

Plans call for the center to offer hands-on internships for University of Idaho and North Idaho College students.

Parrella expects programs at the center to begin this semester.

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Information from: The Capital Press (Ore.), http://www.capitalpress.com/washington