Researchers looking for more sustainable ways to feed the world often find that they have to reach beyond their specific academic disciplines to the find answers.
The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences' new research farm — the J. Phil Campbell Sr. Research and Education Center in Watkinsville — is a place where researchers from multiple disciplines work on ways to make farming more sustainable.
UGA took over management of what was then the J. Phil Campbell Sr. Natural Resource Conservation Center in August of 2012 after the U.S. Department of Agriculture closed the facility.
Opened in 1937, the center already had a long history of research on grazing land and cattle herd management, soil protection and carbon sequestration, water quality and conservation, animal and cropping systems and integrated watershed research.
CAES researchers plan to carry on that legacy, using the land to develop a better understanding of how farming activities impact the land and sharing that information with farmers.
“Our goal was to rebuild the Campbell facility as a center of excellence for research, teaching, and Extension in agriculture and natural resource management,” said Harald Scherm, assistant dean for research for the college. “We want to build a synergistic team of research and Extension scientists at the facility to address critical issues related to sustainable crop and animal production systems, soil protection, and water quality and conservation.”
Currently the center hosts projects on pasture management, watershed management and grass-fed cattle diets.
In addition to providing the land needed for faculty to complete long-term agricultural research projects, the Campbell center will also serve as a hub for sustainable farming outreach and Extension programs — including field days, workshops and technology and technique demonstrations.
The center also houses the offices of several statewide Extension specialists, including agricultural climatologist Pam Knox, John Worley, an Extension engineer who focuses on energy conservation and air quality in agriculture, Melony Wilson, an Extension animal waste specialist, and Mark Risse, who researches agricultural water resources management.
Several other CAES faculty members have technical support, graduate students and multi-user laboratory or office space located at the facility.
As a part of its agreement with the USDA, and as part of the college’s commitment to share best agricultural practices and most up-to-date knowledge, college faculty have launched the Piedmont Beginning Farmers Development Partnership. The program, led by CAES Sustainable Agricultural Coordinator Julia Gaskin, is providing workshops and other training opportunities for young and beginning farmers in the Southeast.
Gaskin recently worked with Extension agents from across Northeast Georgia to conduct a series of sustainable farming workshops at the Campbell center. The workshops focus on organic insect and disease control, food safety on the farm, best grazing management practices and produce marketing basics.
The series filled up fast with new farmers looking to learn some new techniques before the beginning of the spring. “We had more demand for the program than we had space,” Gaskin said. “We plan to hold something similar next winter.”
The center provided a convenient location for Gaskin and county agents from six different counties to organize a multi-countyworkshop. The effort was led by Adam Speir from Madison County. Other Extension agents and specialists who contributed to the workshop series include: Monty Stephens, from Oconee County; Amanda Tedrow, from Clarke County; Ricky Josey, from Franklin County; Sam Ingram, from Jackson County; Bob Waldorf, from Banks County, Michael Wheeler, from Hall County and Dr. Elizabeth Little from the Department of Plant Pathology.
(Merritt Melancon is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)
Farm Superintendent Eric Elsner leads a tour of the J. Campbell Research and Education Center in Watkinsville this March.Download Image