History and Mission
The Georgia Mountain Branch Experiment Station, as it was previously known, was established in 1930. Located three miles south of downtown Blairsville, the station was first a branch of the Georgia Experiment Station in Griffin. The founder of the station, H.P. Stuckey, was the director of the Georgia Experiment Station. He was assisted by Bonnell Stone, a Union County resident. The initial 210-acre tract of mostly wooded land (35 acres in cultivation) was leased from Bob Christopher and purchased a few years later by the University System of Georgia Board of Regents.
In 1932, John Bailey was named to head the station, a position he held until his retirement in 1972. The station's earliest research projects focused on the potential for vegetables and fruits in an effort to upgrade the economy of the area. This early work revealed good variety selection with proper fertilizer produced excellent yields of high quality vegetables and fruits.
The station was expanded in the late 1930s and early 1940s to include field research on feed grains, forages, soil fertility, dairying and sheep. A soil test laboratory, fruit stand and community cannery were built during this time by the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. In 1938, the station entered a cooperative agreement with the Tennessee Valley Authority known as the GA-TVA Council. The purpose of the council was to promote economic usage of TVA fertilizers in the valley counties of Georgia. Station personnel showed that yields of feed grains and forages could be greatly increased with good fertilizer and proper variety selections. As a result, a farmer from Union County was the first in Georgia to produce 100 bushels of corn per acre.
The 1950s, '60s, '70s and '80s saw significant research gains in apple production, forage evaluations for sheep production, soil-test-crop-yield correlations, variety testing of horticultural crops, beef cattle stocker feeding and swine production. During this time a station researcher became the first scientist to discover that the black rot fungus invaded the apple at bloom.This tradition of outstanding research continued throughout the 1990s and includes the cultivation and introduction of TifBlair centipede grass. In 2000, the station was renamed the Georgia Mountain Research and Education Center. The name was changed to better reflect the purpose of branch stations statewide.
Current research focuses on commodities including apples, grapes, blueberries, field corn, sweet corn, soybeans, fescue, orchard grass, alfalfa, ryegrass, tomatoes and beef cattle. The climate is perfect for evaluating cold hardiness for new cultivars that include Alfalfa, Crape Myrtle, Vitex, Abelia, Bermuda, Centipede and Zoysia turf grasses. Additionally, UGA graduate students often conduct their own research at the center.
Georgia Mountain REC hosts over 4,000 children annually with the help of the Community Council. This group also promotes educational seminars and maintains a public garden on the campus. We also closely collaborate with nearby Extension faculty and the Union County Extension Office.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How large is the facility?
The center is one tract of 415 acres located in the northernmost part of the state and is maintained by seven full-time employees.
What research is conducted here?
There are numerous projects at GMREC, many of which favor the unique climate of the area. Several of the projects for cold tolerance include landscape plants and agronomic crops such as rye-grass, fescue grass, alfalfa and orchard grass. GMREC also hosts research on apples for disease control, specifically summer rot diseases like bitter pit and black rot as well as bacterial diseases and work is carried out on wine grapes to identify new chemistries and application timing for the control of mildew. GMREC also participates in the UGA Variety Testing program with field corn, silage corn, and soybeans, evaluating new hybrids for yield and disease tolerance. Other research is also conducted on blueberries, tomatoes, beef cattle and livestock nutrition.
What community activities are available?
The GMREC community council promotes public engagement with education programs for children, outreach programs for adults and maintaining a public garden on center. There are around 150 volunteers that assist with these functions, bringing more than 4,000 children and 900 adults to campus annually. Since 1999, GMREC has opened its orchards up to kindergarteners who may for the first time see apples growing on trees and hear the story of Johnny Appleseed as he comes from the orchard. Over 800 children and just about as many adults come to this four-day event in the fall.
The Community Council’s Preservation Committee maintains a two-acre garden that highlights the benefits of native plants in the landscape. Guests can come to the campus and see the gardens Monday through Friday. The volunteers give guided tours of the gardens on Mondays.
What are the local soil and weather conditions?
North Georgia farms are smaller than those in the southern part of the state and have varying soil types. The predominant soil series type at GMREC is the Hayesville series; a fine sandy loam that dominates mountain slopes. At the base of slopes, clay loams in the series Bradson and Transylvania series are found. In addition, the topography and soils vary greatly with elevations from 1800-2200 feet above sea level. GMREC is located in USDA Agriculture Zone 7A meaning the average extreme low temps are from 0-5 deg F.Annual rainfall is 57” and being in the 2nd most abundant region in the US.
What are the hours of operation?
Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.