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Radford College Farm
by Casey Harrell, with updates by Karen Powers (2013)
In 1941, Radford University, which at the time was Radford College, inherited approximately 6,070 hectares of land from Walter E. Wood of Philadelphia. This piece of land was known as the Radford College Farm. It was located in Pulaski County, VA and bordered Floyd, Montgomery, and Carroll counties.
This property had a very diverse landscape and included many habitat types. For example, many springs and creeks are located within one property including Max Creek, Big Laurel Creek, and Little Laurel Creek. These streams contained limestone ledges which provided shelter and food for many trout which lived within the streams. Along with streams, there were mountains located within the property. The highest mountain on the farm was High Knoll, with an elevation of about 914 meters. Chimney Mountain, elevation 762 meters, was also located on the property. These montane habitats produced timber and included many species of trees such as Carya, Acer, Robinia pseudoacacia, Castanea, and Betula (Hypes, 1945).
This property was sold in the late 1950's or early 1960's. According to professor emeritus Dr. Pat Mikesell, this property was sold for about $60,000.00 and was used to buy the organ in Preston Hall Auditorium (now Bondourant Auditorium) about the time the building was finishing up construction.
Here's where the story gets confusing - a *second* piece of land, also known as the College Farm, was located entirely in Montgomery County. There was and is still a large stable and indoor ring that was used by the Radford Redcoats (our equestrian team). It was used frequently for field trips and collecting natural history specimens.
On December 17, 1977, the Montgomery County parcel was sold for $385,000 by public auction, and this property was later annexed to the City of Radford. It's now known as the High Meadows housing development.
Upon hearing of this impending sale in 1977, some quick-thinking biology faculty members met with and made a case to then-president Dedmon. Because the Biology Department was losing such a great piece of land for field trips and collections, funds should go towards the new greenhouse. Dedmon agreed, and the greenhouse was completed shortly thereafter (P. Mikesell, personal communication)!
Many species of plants and animals were collected from these 2 parcels, and are now a part of Radford University’s Natural History Collection in the Biology Department. Major scientific collections are studied by anatomists, veterinarians, and molecular biologists, while smaller collections are studied by students as well as other scientists. Collections provide us with data validation and acquisition, exhibition, public and continuing education, knowledge of biodiversity, and evidence of genetic or morphological change over time (Patterson, 2002). The collecting at the Radford College Farms has allowed us to learn about what species were found on the farm and to learn more about the history of the farm. The collections allow students to learn more about the biodiversity of Radford College Farms. Among the species collected were Peromyscus maniculatus (deer mouse; photo, above right) and Buglossoides arvensis (corn gromwell; photo, below).
Although the Radford College Farms are no longer owned by Radford University, other small land donations still provide students with a place to do scientific research and add to the natural history collection (e.g. Selu Conservancy). The natural history collection in the Biology Department at Radford University continues to grow by the additions of the students and faculty at Radford University.
Hypes, J., Detailed description of the Radford College Farm. Radford College: Grapurchat, March 13, 1945. Print.
Patterson, B. D. (2002). On the continuing need for scientific collecting of mammals. Mastozoología Neotropical, 9(2):253-262
Williams, B., Farm Sold- $385,000. Radford College: Grapurchat, January 12, 1978. Print.