University of Georgia
ATHENS, Ga. — "The ground is so dry that we couldn't do the groundbreaking, so we brought our own dirt in," Steve Nickerson said, pointing to the pile of red clay at Double Bridges Farm.
Nickerson, head of the University of Georgia animal and dairy science department, grabbed a shovel and broke ground with UGA President Michael Adams and College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Dean and Director Scott Angle at a ceremony Tuesday May 29.
The weather stayed dry as representatives from UGA, the University System of Georgia Board of Regents, Oglethorpe County and others gathered in the middle of a hay field to celebrate the start of the new $5 million cattle, swine and equine facility on Double Bridges Road.
"It's taken a lot of effort from a lot of people to do this," Nickerson said.
Eight years ago, the CAES started looking for a new place to house its animals. "Right now our farms are old and in disrepair," Nickerson said. "This will allow us to have top-notch research facilities and give students up-to-date classrooms that will allow them to be more hands-on with the livestock."
Double Bridges Farm will replace the South Milledge Avenue facility. East of Athens, the farm has acreage in both Clarke and Oglethorpe counties. It's bordered on the northeast by Hwy. 78 and on the south by Double Bridges Road. Directly across Hwy. 78 is the current UGA Dairy Teaching Center.
When the Double Bridges land came up, it was in an ideal location, said Robert Shulstad, CAES interim associate dean for research. "We want to be the leading star for the industry as we move forward" with this facility.
Adams agreed. "This will be a place where the best faculty can work with the best students in facilities that are second to none," he said.
It's the CAES's unique role in both training students and helping producers and agribusinesses that sets it apart, Angle said. "We're one of the very few places that has the capability to do both.”
Angle, Shulstad and Nickerson all said former Athens Sen. Brian Kemp played a big role in helping Double Bridges Farm become a reality.
"In 2004 and 2005, Brian went to bat for us before the (Georgia) General Assembly," Nickerson said.
"In my four years in the state senate, I don't think I had anything that so many people worked so hard on," Kemp said. From cattlemen to producers, "I don't know of a single group that was against this project. Everybody had somebody at the capitol working hard for this."
The projected timetable for Double Bridges Farm is to start site preparation this fall, begin construction in the spring of 2008 and move the swine, cattle and horses and start classes there in about two years.
The farm isn't just about the University of Georgia, Adams said. It's about being good neighbors.
"It's not just about growing cows and sheep and swine," Kemp said. "It's also going to help our state" by providing jobs and economic development.
The name "Double Bridges" is appropriate, said Steve Stice, a UGA animal and dairy science researcher and eminent scholar. Double, he said, describes both the agriculture side and the biomedical application of the farm's future.
"We do a lot of double duty," he said.
Near the end of the program, Rep. Terry England (R-Auburn) presented Jary Douglas of the UGA dairy judging team a check for $5,000 and a check to a CAES scholarship fund for $1,000. The money "came out of our pockets," he said, from 55 state legislators who are part of Georgia's rural caucus.