In 1927 the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station established a department devoted entirely to research on horticultural crops. Julian C. Miller, a new Ph.D. from Cornell, was hired as the department head. He was provided a field foreman, Zack Richardson, one mule, a plow, and the Hill Farm, forty acres of land on a slight rise overlooking University Lake. The Hill Farm was so named because it was the high point in an area surrounded by swamp land drained into the University Lakes, which were built during the Franklin D. Roosevelt presidency. At that time, the Hill Farm was located on the far east edge of campus, a long walk from the main buildings around the quadrangle. This left a large tract of land for further building of the LSU campus while providing an area to conduct the research of a Land Grant University. The well-drained soil and the effects of the lake for moderating temperatures provided an excellent site for the production of horticultural crops. During a period of almost fifty years, horticultural research programs on this site developed varieties of ornamentals, fruits, and vegetables, which became standards for home garden and commercial production.
Dr. Miller's first efforts were directed at improving production of sweet potatoes, which had become part of the basic diet of farmers. Unit 1 Puerto Rico, the first sweet potato variety with uniform quality, came from his plots on the Hill Farm, as did popular commercial varieties. Two of these varieties are Centennial, developed by Dr. Hernandez, and Beauregard, developed by Dr. Ralston. Dr. Mikell developed the country's first wilt resistant tomato, the Louisiana Red. Hill Farm research produced Irish potato varieties such as Red LaSoda, LaChipper and Fontenot, all developed by the late Dr. Fontenot, which were national standards long after Louisiana ceased commercial potato production. New varieties of figs (LSU Purple developed by Dr. O'Rourke), pears, hot peppers, okra (Green Velvet and Gold Coast, which were USDA releases from Africa), strawberries (Tangi and Daybreak, developed by Hawthorne), shallots, lima beans, cabbage, and collards were all developed at the Hill Farm.
The Hill Farm also became a testing site for the American Rose Society where the All-American Rose Selection tests were conducted. Breeding programs of hibiscus by Dr. Kimbrough, Louisiana iris by Dr. Hogan, Easter lilies by Dr. Cochran, day lilies, daffodils, and camellias along with many other ornamentals were all widely recognized.
During the years of intensive research, the LSU campus continued to grow and expand and buildings soon reached the Hill Farm. In the early 1960s, a large portion of the Hill Farm by the University Lake was used to build the sorority and fraternity houses that are a landmark to the University today. During this time much of the fruit-breeding program was moved to other research stations in Louisiana. In the early 1990s, a new recreational facility was built on the site where the All-American Rose trials and other horticultural research were conducted. The rose trials and other research were moved to the LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens on Essen Lane. During this transition period, the Hill Farm became more of a teaching facility and less of a research facility because of the lack of space to conduct research and the close distance of the farm from campus. Then in the early 1990s, all but a small portion of the Hill Farm (about five acres) was given to the main campus for extending facilities of the new recreational facilities as well as the Cook Hotel and Conference Center at LSU.
The Horticulture Hill Farm Teaching Facility is a five acre site on the LSU campus. It is an informal and formal teaching facility dedicated to meeting the needs of horticulture students, the LSU community, and clientele groups. The facility includes a building with a large classroom, and two labs, and an undercover teaching space in the “pole barn.” There is a small demonstration orchard for teaching fruit production, field space for teaching vegetable production and organic gardening, a can yard for teaching nursery crops, a large shade house and a greenhouse for teaching greenhouse crop production and hydroponic vegetable production, organic herb and vegetable production in box beds, and a new horticulture crops postharvest facility with washing, packing, and storage (under construction).
The Hill Farm Teaching Facility is a very important part of our formal and informal educational program in SPESS and provides students with hands-on training as well as experience conducting small research projects. In addition, the Hill Farm is a demonstration and teaching site for horticulture extension programming and provides an excellent opportunity for groups such as 4-H, FFA, and farm-to-school groups to visit and see first-hand various aspects of horticulture production. The Hill Farm is also used for extension programming to train beginning and experienced farmers, county agents, and other clientele in sustainable horticultural practices. The School of Plant, Environmental, and Soil Sciences is proud of the facility that was built to provide students and clientele with a great education in horticulture and local food systems.
At the Hill Farm Teaching Facility, our mission is to provide access to hands-on and experiential horticulture education, and resources necessary for the community to grow food following environmentally sustainable practices in order to develop and support a more sustainable food system where locally produced, affordable and nutritious food is available to all, and where the community can come together to share, play, and inspire one another.