What is known is that a "choreboy" at the Smith farm, S. B. Dayton, brought the grove to the attention of the United States Department of Agriculture in the spring of 1915. Visits from department personnel followed, including several visits by its chief plant explorer, David Fairchild, who arranged for his wealthy friend and fellow plant explorer, Barbour Lathrop, to purchase the Smith farm in 1919 and deed it to the USDA for $1. The bamboo in the one-acre grove was then over 50 feet tall.
The USDA used the facility for the next sixty years — as a plant introduction and research garden — before closing the station and deeding the property to the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia in 1983. Assigned by the board to the Cooperative Extension Service in the University of Georgia’s College of Agriculture, the facility operated on limited funds for the next decade as a center for research and education aimed at benefitting Extension Agents, youth groups, horticulturalists, industry, and local residents.
The farm’s fortunes reached a critical turning point in 1995, however, when the Friends of the Coastal Gardens, a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, was formed to organize and promote fundraising, volunteer efforts, garden labor, and staffing for youth education programs at the farm, including the popular "Roots and Shoots" program that has exposed thousands of coastal youths to the decorative and vegetable rewards of gardening. Indeed, since 2003, when UGA announced that the Bamboo Farm would close in 2004, the Friends has successfully mobilized the state legislature, the local county commission, and generous contributors to design, fund, and implement a Master development plan that has led to the addition of the beautiful Andrews Visitor Center and 10 new gardens as well as roads, fences, and other improvements.
Above Money: The Bamboo Farm And Friends covers all of these developments — from the Smith farm to the transformative impact of the Friends — while also connecting the farm’s evolution to important social, political, and cultural developments in local, state, American, and World history. The University of Georgia is cooperating with the project, which is being produced by Emmy® award-winning filmmaker, Dr. Walter E. Campbell, and his company, Memory Lane Productions, Inc.