Legislators, UGA and community leaders dedicate J. Phil Campbell Research and Education Center in Watkinsville

By for CAES News

With the dedication of the J. Campbell Sr. Research and Education Center in Watkinsville, the University of Georgia is carrying on a legacy of agricultural and environmental research and outreach.

“The acquisition of the Campbell property from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will allow the University of Georgia to continue the important research that has been conducted here for decades,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead at a dedication ceremony for the center Tuesday.

Having served as a USDA Agricultural Research Service research station for 76 years, the 1,055-acre farm and laboratory complex was transferred to the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in fall 2013 to expand the college’s education, research and outreach programs. The agricultural research that UGA faculty will conduct at the center is key to feeding the world’s growing population and keeping the U.S. food supply safe and secure.

“This project will allow for vital agriculture research to continue here in Georgia while saving federal tax dollars,” said Rep. Jack Kingston, who helped to dedicate the center. “Agriculture accounts for one out of seven jobs in our state and $76.9 billion annually for Georgia’s economy. It is a natural fit for UGA to continue leading in agriculture research to protect our safe, abundant, and affordable food supply.”

The center was founded as the Southern Piedmont Research Conservation Center in 1937 at the urging of Georgia native and then assistant chief of the Soil Conservation Service J. Phil Campbell Sr. Campbell played a vital role in establishing the Cooperative Extension Service in Georgia before taking his role with the USDA in President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration. The center was renamed for Campbell in 1997.

“Today’s dedication of the J. Phil Campbell Sr. Research and Education Center serves to remind us of Mr. Campbell’s outstanding contributions to education and agricultural research,” said U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden.

“The center has a longstanding legacy of research in herd management, soil protection and conservation that has greatly benefited not just Georgia but our entire nation. I am pleased that this partnership is continuing and that the agriculture community will benefit from the work done here.”

UGA gained management of the facility—formerly the J. Phil Campbell Sr. Natural Resource Conservation Center—as the USDA was moving to close similar sites around the nation. Congress approved a provision specifying 10 land-grant universities could take ownership of such facilities, provided they agree to utilize the property for agricultural research for a minimum of 25 years. UGA is the first land-grant university to complete the transfer process and take over management of a former USDA facility.

The center’s fields, pastures and labs will allow UGA faculty to continue research into sustainable agriculture and natural resources conservation. It currently houses about 20 ongoing UGA research projects on sustainable grazing systems, nutrient cycling, water quality, organic production and forage variety trials.

“The addition of the J. Phil Campbell Research Center to the UGA College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences inventory of research facilities will allow UGA to continue its long and much admired research mission for many years to come,” said Terry England, chairman of appropriations for the Georgia House of Representatives.

These projects will produce results that can be put into use immediately on Georgia’s farms to make agriculture in Georgia more profitable and more sustainable.

“Our state’s agricultural practices of tomorrow are shaped by the research completed today at the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences,” said Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black. “Since the founding of this land grant university, the research conducted by the University of Georgia’s College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences has led agriculture in our state to become a $80 billion industry and the leading job provider in our state.”

In addition to being a hub for sustainable agricultural research, the Campbell Center will also serve as a model for how academic institutions can conduct cutting edge research while engaging and serving their surrounding communities, said J. Scott Angle, dean of the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

“While the center has a long legacy of pioneering research, it is also ideally suited for use as an outdoor classroom for UGA students and for Extension programs, such as the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Training Partnership and other workshops,” Angle said. “It will offer a model for integrating agricultural research, teaching and community engagement that will be the first of its kind in Northeast Georgia.”

While the center has always played an important role for Oconee County and Northeast Georgia farmers, its new role as both an education and outreach center will expand the center’s reach in the community, said Melvin Davis, chairman of the Oconee County Commission.

“This facility, with the research and public service educational outreach conducted here, through the Cooperative Extension Service, will do much to enhance sustainable agriculture throughout Oconee County, the northeast region and the state,” Davis said. “Farmers will be better-informed, young people—through 4-H or FFA activities and school tours—will see and gain a better understanding of the importance of agriculture.”

For more information about the J. Phil Campbell Sr. Research and Education Center and the role it plays as part of UGA and the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, see Visit

Merritt Melancon is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
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