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Sandhill Research & Education Center

The History of the Sandhill REC

The Sandhill Experiment Station was established by action of the Board of Trustees of Clemson College in 1926.  After considering ten separate sites for the station, the location at Pontiac, 14 miles northeast of Columbia, was finally chosen.

Chosen for its sandy soil, Sandhill's acreage was put to work, helping to solve farming problems.  Researchers launched an array of studies, including research on dairy cattle, livestock, horticulture, field crops and soil fertility.  During its early years, Sandhill was the leading experimental station in the South, drawing farmers and cattlemen from the Pee Dee to Anderson, along with farmers from neighboring states.

Over the years a number of important agriculture research endeavors took place at Sandhill, including research involving peach mineral nutrition, peach variety evaluations, nematodes, various forestry projects, vegetable nutrition projects, and other fruit and vegetable projects.  The center flourished, and as Clemson became a university, more and more partners joined in the research initiatives.

As South Carolina's agriculture landscape began to change, so did the focus at Sandhill.  During the 1990's environmental horticulture emerged as a central new focus area.  During this time, many projects were designed and implemented, including the Conservation Station Outdoor Classroom, the Children's Garden, the Cottage Garden, the Compost Garden, and the Backyard Wildlife Habitat area.

The research center has a renewed focus on agriculture and farm management realized through the creation of the Extension Agribusiness Center. Agribusiness includes farm and financial management, policy, local food systems, marketing, agritourism and entrepreneurship.  Learn more about agribusiness to be directed to the Extension Agribusiness homepage.  In addition to agribusiness, the Sandhill REC maintains a focus on natural resources, wildlife, forestry, education, environmental conservation and sustainability.

History of Buildings and Grounds

The historic office building was constructed in 1927. It was the first building to be constructed on the new Experiment Station and was considered to be quite handsome. The first Station Superintendent was James A. Riley. He arrived in 1926 and supervised all new construction.  His family arrived two years later and his son Henry remembers, "I came here in '28 or '29 - I was 7 years old. We drove down Camden Highway; it's now called Two Notch. There was a row of trees on the right and cleared land. It was very rough. Great big piles of scrub oak roots were everywhere." Today, the Richland County Extension Office and State FFA-Future Farmers of America, share the building. Mrs. Riley soon became known for her passion and commitment to education for all.  Henry remembers, "My mother was an arm twister.  She was hell-bent on education. She used the front room to teach people in the community how to read."

The Historic Cottage is the oldest building on the site, though not the first to arrive.  According to Henry Riley, "Warren Sanders owned it and Clemson bought it, it's the oldest building here, it had no running water. Foreman Ware Carnes lived there.  Dad Sheley and his son moved the house.  They could move houses better than anyone. They rolled it here from across the road on logs with horses and a winch." Today, the Department of Pesticide Regulation occupies the building.

The Lake House was originally called the Pond House. It was built in 1932 with WPA (Works Progress Administration) labor. It largely functioned as a community center during the Depression. Underprivileged children attended summer camp there and dances were held on the main floor on weekends. WPA projects paid local level and paid local women to blaze a trail around the nearby pond.

Sandhill Research and Education Center
Sandhill Research and Education Center | 900 Clemson Road, Columbia, SC 29229