UT Experimental Station

d n english

My first memories of “The Station” were with my Grandfather English. My “Pop” was one of these men if he did not know the answer to something he would find the as he would say the “expert”.

Let me explain Pop was born in 1895 he dropped out of school at 13 to help support his family. As he would tell me “ I  never stop learning” and he didn’t. 

On this day we were are at the Station to find out what to do to make the field good for growing okra where cotton had been. Pop had heard Winter Garden was going to start buying more vegetables for their frozen food line. He was always thinking ahead. What he learned from that visit, after they tested the soil and  later came out to the farm was how to “feed the land”.

By the time he started growing okra for sale he had 5  acres of top producing crop. I know this because  at 13 it was my job to weigh the pickers bags of okra and calculate their pay each day.

I was so excited when he decided to drop the crop after 2 years since so many others were growing okra. ( the phrase stop while you are ahead is what he told me)

 I know it was only a few weeks of summer but I preferred working in the air condition grocery store he owned …no snakes there.

The history of the U T Experimental Station starts in 1907 when the Tennessee General Assembly passed the act that created the Agricultural Research Centers across the state. The goal was to educate farmers on how to best use their land.

The first properties purchased in Madison Co. was three tracks of land . 85 acres from A M Alexander,57 acres from John L. Pearson and 47 acres from W J Ross. Over the years additional lands were purchased totaling 647 acres. The property is bound on the south by Hwy 70 East 45 bypass north railroad tract west by Forked Deer River. 

The original buildings were started in 1908. There was the main building ,the barns, storage buildings, and houses for some of the employees. This was a working farm, animals needed tended , crops planted ,tests , experiments and research so it was a 7/24 operation.

In the early days there was a round auditorium was built from funds paid by attendees of the annual Farmers and Homemakers Institutes. The Institutes were attended by families from all over West Tennessee. The local hotels and boarding houses were filled to capacity when the sessions were held.

Until the 1960’s the 4H camps were held here then moved to the the Milan campus. 

As early as 1957 UT started updating and adding state of the art laboratories. Gone are the barns and the animals replaced by many new buildings and departments. Over the next 10 years more greenhouses ,laboratories and housing was added. The one thing they could count on was Mother Nature and the Forked Deer River to provide the researchers with challenges. They definitely learned and continuing learning about drainage and flooding on this property.

In 1987 updating of the  facility was started and finished in 1989. The main building now not only holds classes on agriculture, but seminars on various subjects and political gatherings.

Some of the new expanded departments in the new buildings around the property are Ornamental plants ,Forestry,Environmental Science,Bio system engineering ,Entomology and  Plant pathology,Vegetable production and pathology, Landscaping Systems  and several other programs.

In 1999 when the tornados came through many of the buildings and some of the housing were damaged or destroyed. It was just a minor set back soon it was up and running better than ever.

Each year the center becomes a Gardners dream with all the exhibits and experts on hand to give advice and showcase the knowledge   the West Tennessee Education and Research Center provides. This special session also makes people comfortable in asking for help and advice all year round. 

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