AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala – Themika L. Sims has been appointed to serve as the director of the Graham Farm and Nature Center, a 491-acre educational farm near Scottsboro, Alabama. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System operates the center through a gift from Nita Graham Head and her husband, Robert, to Auburn University.
Formerly the county Extension coordinator in Jackson County, Alabama, Sims has been key in the development of the facility. He has been an active partner during the development of the Graham Farm and Nature Center (GFNC) since 2012. As director, Sims will oversee Extension educational programs, demonstration plots, research projects, marketing, capital improvements and maintenance, as well as fundraising.
Graham Farm and Nature Center
Mike Phillips, Alabama Extension director, said the GFNC is an excellent facility to highlight the geographic diversity and natural resources that are inherent to north Alabama.
“The center is located in a pristine landscape. The land features a floodplain, native grassland, mountains, rivers and associated ecological transition zones,” Phillips said. “These landscapes afford Extension the opportunity to offer a wide variety of educational opportunities for all age groups.”
“Our goal is to conduct workshops and other outreach events to enjoy the beauty of nature in north Alabama,” Sims said. “These activities include hiking, camping, kayaking, birdwatching, stargazing and observing the many ecological components these landscapes offer for study and enjoyment. Other opportunities include leadership and professional development programs.”
The GFNC receives guidance from a program committee and a stewardship committee. As director, Sims will guide the center to fulfill the mission and purpose of the Head family gift.
Phillips said Sims has been instrumental from day one in the overall development and transition of the GFNC.
“He has personal relationships with the Head family and put in effort early in the process to identify other public and private partners to reach this point in its overall development,” Phillips said.
Sims’ six-year commitment to the success of the center gives him a unique perspective and a firm grasp of the family’s wishes for outreach. It also gives him the understanding of the importance the center has to the community.
The center is on the family property of Nita Graham Head. The Head family has had possession of the property since the 1850s.
“Nita was born and raised in the house and attended the Princeton school as a little girl,” Sims said. “After graduating high school, she obtained a teaching degree at the University of North Alabama.”
Head was the youngest of four children and was the only survivor in the family. The Heads donated the farm to Alabama Extension via the Auburn Real Estate Foundation.
“She intended for the farm to be used to teach youth and adults about natural resources conservation, animal science education, ecology, historical preservation, youth development, oral history, wildlife management, ornithology, aquatics and fruit and vegetable production,” Sims said.
The GFNC is nestled within the pristine Paint Rock Valley of Jackson County; its borders include Larkin Fork Creek and Paint Rock River. The GFNC property rises to more than 1700 feet in elevation along the eastern face of Maxwell Mountain.
It serves as a conservation hub for the southeastern United States. The James D. Martin Skyline Wildlife Management Area and the Walls of Jericho are near GFNC. Together these acres provide a multitude of outdoor opportunities including birding, hiking, cycling, fishing, camping and canoeing.
For more information on the Graham Farm and Nature Center or educational programs of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, contact Sims at email@example.com or (256) 599-6612.