Story by Matthew Parks, Contributing writer
Jimmy Don Robinson, a retired Ballard County judge, donated his 534 acre farm and two homes to the Murray State Foundation.
The estate is known as Eagle’s Rest and is located in Ballard County, where Robinson has lived for most of his life.
Brian Parr, department head of agricultural science, said the land has been donated as a life estate gift, which means Robinson will continue to live in the home and manage the land in the immediate future, and Murray State will not have control of the full plot until Robinson’s death or until an allotted period of time has expired.
Robinson donated the farm to Murray State in memory of his late wife, Charlene Robinson. Both Robinson and his wife were graduates from the University of Kentucky, but long-time relationships with Murray State, especially the school of agriculture, resulted in the donation being given to Murray State.
“It really is a testament to just how widespread Murray State’s reach is in the region,” Parr said.
For the time being, Murray State is caring for 70 acres of the property and will be temporarily partnering with farmers that Robinson hired to help maintain the farm.
Murray State is not sure of what they will do with Eagle’s Rest.
“It is a little bit of a challenge with it being sixty miles away from the main campus,” Parr said.
However, the Hutson School of Agriculture plans to have students participating in research and studies at the farm.
Parr said he expects students to be involved at Eagle’s Rest very soon.
Some students wish the donation would have been targeted toward the university as a whole, since Murray State is still hurting from the budget cuts imposed this year.
Lauren Terpinitz, senior equine science major from Carbondale, Illinois, appreciates the donation, but regrets that it doesn’t benefit the entire university.
“More research opportunities for community outreach through the facility is great,” Terpinitz said. “But the bottom line is that all of Murray State is suffering right now due to budget cuts.”
Dondre Jackson, junior from Mayfield, Kentucky, shares a similar opinion and believes this is only a step in the right direction for the university.
“[Robinson] did a great thing by donating his farm to the foundation,” Jackson said. “However, the university is still suffering in many areas.”
Brien Dossett, junior from Cadiz, Kentucky, said he believes the donation will serve the school well.
“I believe the land is a great opportunity,” Dossett said. “Not all students get on hand experience in their field, and this will give agriculture majors a chance to be hands-on and get to know what they’re doing.”
Tony Brannon, dean of the Hutson School of Agriculture, said he believes the land will be an institution at Murray State for years to come.
Brannon said progress made at Pullen Farm, Tuck Farm and Hutson Farm, all of which were also donations to the university, are examples of what he expects the Ballard County property to look like in the future.
“When you look at those properties it really is amazing – the progress in utilization and development that has been made,” Brannon said.
Brannon said it’s too early to discuss plans for the property, but he said Murray State will always maintain the property and use it to support agriculture education and research interests of the region.
Brannon said the farm could be used for test plots, livestock opportunities, working with agricultural supply businesses or the demonstration of new crop opportunities.
He said some research and demonstration plots will be set up on the 70 acres already in Murray State care. He said this project will begin with the next crop season in the spring.
A “Celebration of Gift” event that will serve as a dedication for the land will be held at Ballard County High School on Sept. 18.
“One thing is for certain,” Brannon said. “With all these donations, the dean that follows the dean that follows the dean who follows me will have quite a set-up for success.”