Stripling donated his land to Mitchell County so scientists could use it for research studies on irrigation. "We've got to have irrigation," he said. "If you don't have it, (farming) will break you."
Mitchell County will lease the Stripling land, near Camilla, Ga., to the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. The university will use it to create an irrigation research and education center.
The state is committed to responsible water management, said Georgia Rep. Richard Royal of Camilla. Data from the research park could help resolve the water dispute between Georgia, Florida and Alabama. It could help find more efficient ways farmers can water crops.
"This research park will help develop future water policies and especially give us the scientific knowledge to convince others of our (state's) concern and stewardship," Royal said.
C.M. Stripling Irrigation Research Park
The research park is in the heart of the state's heaviest agricultural water use: the Dougherty Plain. The site provides a high-profile place to focus the new research and outreach of the UGA agricultural water initiative, said Gale Buchanan, dean and director of the UGA CAES.
"A community-based advisory committee will assist UGA faculty and staff with a development plan for the park and offer guidance on relevant research and education programs," Buchanan said.
Researchers hope data from the facility will answer key agricultural questions:
- Will the research lead to reduced water use and better returns on irrigation investments?
- Will the returns be high enough and fast enough for the farmers and their financial backers to risk investment?
- How will this lead to new production opportunities for Georgia farmers or reduce economic risks in existing farms?
- What new service and manufacturing opportunities will be created because of improved margins for producers and new products on the market?
Jim Hook, a UGA professor of crop and soil sciences, said the overriding question is fundamental: "How little water can we get by with and keep the production and profitability where it needs to be?"
"We need scientific data to see what we're really doing," Royal said.
Buchanan said it's appropriate that the park is on Stripling's land.
"C. M. Stripling is a leader in modern irrigation farming in Georgia and has also been recognized as Forester of the Year in Georgia and in the country," he said.
"His modern agriculture and forestry practices are at the heart of his desire to protect our land, water and plant resources," he said, "while developing the most advanced irrigation systems feasible for Georgia, and especially Dougherty Plain conditions."
"This gift of land so close to his heart and home is a lasting tribute to his desire to help his community and the farmers who have been the backbone of the region's economy and community," Buchanan said. "It's his gift of gratitude to a way of life that has supported him and his family through the years."
(Brad Haire is the former news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)