UI Foundation to sell University orchards

Erica Magda

Erica Magda

By Colleen Vest

Researchers are in the process of moving apple trees and grape vines from the University orchards, part of the Pell Farms, to new storage facilities and land in the South Farms.

The University of Illinois Foundation is in the beginning stages of preparing to sell the Pell Farms, located in southeast Urbana at the intersection of Philo and Windsor roads. The Pell Farms were once part of the University but were traded to the Foundation.

“One of our services is that we are able to acquire property on behalf of the University,” said Brad Hatfield, senior vice president for administration for the Foundation. “In this case, we traded the Pell Farm property for land we had already acquired on the South Farms.”

The Foundation recently hired a firm to look at market analysis with the intent to sell, Hatfield said. The firm is currently looking into how much the land is worth, he continued.

The decision to trade land happened a couple of years ago, said Bruce Branham, interim head of the Department for Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences.

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The Pell Farm is 160 acres of land that the department, a program within ACES, used for research as well as producing fruits, he continued.

“We primarily used the land to study breeding and fruit cultures,” Branham said. “We also had an apple sale every fall and produced other fruits for market.”

Stacy Kim, sophomore in general studies, said she had never been to the orchards.

“I didn’t know the University had orchards,” Kim said. “I really like going to the farmers’ market, so it’s really cool that the University used to sell fruit from a campus orchard.”

Corn was grown on the Pell Farms as well as some other fruits including peaches, grapes, blueberries and strawberries, Branham said.

“Just about any kind of fruit crop that can be grown in Illinois, is grown in the orchards on the land,” Branham said. “We had a fairly diverse farm there because it had very productive soil.”

Any research crops grown on the Pell Farms are in the final stages of being moved to the South Farms, Hatfield said.

“We had trouble moving the apple trees, which are very valuable in studying breeding,” Branham said. “We tried to move them by grafting root stocks, but it didn’t take. So, we are waiting until spring to try again.”

While research involving plant life can be difficult to move, the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences has not put much into the Pell Farms, and the South Farms land has new buildings and facilities to aid in research, Branham said.

“Anytime you have to move is a pain, but we will be about a mile closer to campus, so that will be more convenient for students,” Branham said. “Part of the goal is to have a farm that is more involved with undergraduates.”