On September 1st, USDA Agricultural Research Service transferred their 3800 acre research facility in Brooksville to FAMU (Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University). It is being reported as “one of the single largest land transfers to a Historically Black College or University in history from the USDA.”
The USDA conveyed the acreage to FAMU through a quit claim deed which incorporates a 25 year use restriction to agricultural and natural resource research. In exchange for the land, the University agrees to establish a Beginning Rancher/Farmer program serving “tribal” organizations. A large part of the agreement is to facilitate agricultural and natural resources research.
FAMU is responsible to maintain the property and existing facilities. They have planned to allocate $350,000 annually to maintain the research center and facilities. Buildings on the property date back to the Civilian Conservation Corps of the Great Depression. FAMU’s College of Agriculture and Science lists the following as their goals for the Brooksville site:
1. Conduct agricultural and natural resource research that will benefit the nation, state, and local communities;
2. Develop and implement the beginning rancher and farmer programs, and outreach projects;
3. Develop and implement socio‐economic projects that will enable the Brooksville site to be economically viable and self‐sustaining;
4. Develop youth development and experiential learning and training opportunities for students at all grade levels;
5. Develop and showcase demonstrations designed for various alternative agricultural enterprises from current and future program areas in the college; and 2
6. Engage faculty from FAMU and other universities to participate in the Brooksville project.
The research they will be conducting will more specifically be focused on livestock grazing systems, hay production systems, grapes, small fruits and medicinal plants, integrated pest management, wetland and watershed research.
The map below identifies the four tracts of land that make up the 3800 acres.
Robins’ Donation 1 (RD1) is a 140‐acre tract of land located north of State Road 485B (Yontz Road). Robins’ Donation 2 (RD2) is a 788.5‐acre tract of land located at 22271 Chinsegut Hill Road, northwest of Highway 41 (Broad Street) and west of Snow Memorial Highway. Bankhead Jones 1 (BJ1) is a 731‐acre tract east of Highway 41 (Broad Street) between Deer Run Road and County Road 476 (Lake Lindsey Road). Bankhead Jones 2 (BJ2) is a 2,186‐acre tract of land near 27590 Lake Lindsey Road.
After 25 years, the use restrictions end and the University has its sights on possible multipurpose uses of the property. In regards to the benefits of the acquisition they state, “The perceived benefits are: the value of the land will be significantly higher than present value in 25 years; potential source of future revenue and equity for future development and investment; no contractual restrictions after 25 years and land can be put to multipurpose uses…”
An integral part of FAMU is their status as a “land-grant” university. In the US, the land grant institutions (now mostly Universities) were established through the 1862 and 1890 Morrill Acts in which federal lands were granted to states in order to fund the institutions. These institutions were focused on agricultural, military, and mechanical sciences. Some institutions were directly granted land. FAMU was created following the 1890 Morrill Act which was formerly known as the “State Normal College for Colored Students.” They were designated to receive a land grant “to the endowment and support of branches of learning as related to agriculture and mechanic arts, including military tactics.” The 1890 legislation made it a requirement for each state to show that race did not play a part in admissions or else create a separate land grant college for individuals of color.
FAMU’s land grant tradition carried on with the transfer of 3800 acres of federal land to the university September 1st. This will further their research opportunities within the 25 year time frame. After 25 years, they will be able to sell all or part of the property and expand upon its uses which would include potential development.
The 3800 acre USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) property was established in 1932 when Col. Raymond Robins of Chinsegut Hill donated 2100 acres to the federal government. Research was focused on beef cattle production, physiology, genetics and nutrition for subtropical climates. In January 2012, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack created USDA’s “Blueprint for Stronger Service” which streamlined operations and costs throughout the Department. This called for the closure of 259 facilities throughout the country including the 3800 acre Brooksville facility. The historic Brooksville property was left with an uncertain future.
Now that its future is defined for the next 25 years, the farming industry in Hernando County could see some benefits through FAMU’s research and outreach programs.