Shelby Farms Park Master Plan Process Presents an Opportunity for Agricenter to Set Course for a Long-term Impact on Agriculture

Agricenter International recently named Jeff Ellis as the farm’s new research director. Jeff, a native of Greenville, Miss., who formerly worked for Bayer CropScience as a Mid-South bioscience research and development specialist, is an excellent choice to lead this organization into its next stage of research growth and development. His appointment can’t have come at a more critical time.


Under the direction of the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy, a long range strategic Master Plan is being developed for the Park. At some 4,500 acres, this park represents the largest urban park in the country. How it develops and the role it plays in the continued growth and development of Shelby County and Memphis is one of the most important quality of life and community issues we face.

Most of the attention on the Master Plan for Shelby Farms Park will be focused on the “park” aspects of the land. This includes everything from the Lucius Burch Jr. Natural Area along the Wolf River; to enhanced lakes, grasslands and forests for recreation; to the additions of iconic attractions.

The entire Southeast portion of Shelby Farms Park is Agricenter International. While most people recognize Agricenter by its Expo Center, Farmer’s Market and RV Park, the real opportunity for long-term impact at Agricenter is in facilitating agricultural research, educational programs, environmental conservation, and natural area preservation.

Among the key requirements of the three world-renowned park planners vying for the contract to develop the master plan for the Park are leadership in the areas of progressive practices, environmental sustainability and resource capitalization. It is in making those planning aspects a reality that will allow Agricenter’s research to play a vital role.

Imagine a use that combines recreation, preservation, education and agricultural advancement, led by the scientists and companies that use Agricenter’s land. We can make Agricenter a world leader in agricultural education. We could establish a national center for Community Supported Agriculture and local food production. We could lead and educate in the fields of bio-mass research.

The Shelby Farms Park Conservancy talks about a vision in which Shelby Farms Park can be to the 21st century what New York’s Central Park was to the 19th century. It should be a new regional center for growth, a new destination for residents, a jewel of civic pride, and an attraction to people from around the world.

Bringing Agricenter to its full potential during this master planning process will be a key part of achieving that vision beyond recreation. All of us in the biosciences in Memphis wish Jeff great success in achieving this.

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