GERMANTOWN, Tenn. – Equestrian and two-time Olympic gold medalist Melanie Smith Taylor says she looks forward to working with the University of Tennessee to turn her Germantown horse farm into a living classroom for generations to come.
Last month, Taylor announced plans to transfer the 350-acre Wildwood Farm on Germantown Road to UT Martin upon her death. The nearly $80M property is the largest gift ever to the UT system.
“The decision was really laid out by Lee, my late husband,” said Taylor. “Lee had such an interest in science and education and the land and animals and to think that this could continue to be a place for people to enjoy and to learn and for future generations to be part of this place.”
Taylor said her husband grew up on the farm, his dad buying 40 acres of land at a time. She said the iconic horse barn was built in 1935 in six months for $40,000 and, at the time, was the second-largest barn in the country.
“When I first married Lee, we had over 150 horses on the farm, but when Lee died, we downsized to make it more manageable. We kind of planned for what was going to happen in the future,” said Taylor.
That plan includes preserving the farm in its current state to honor the Taylor family while allowing UT to use the land to increase educational programs in veterinary health technology and other agricultural disciplines down the road.
Taylor said that could include dual enrollment programs for Collierville and Germantown High school students.
“They will be able to do some work here, learn on the farm while they are still in high school. I think that will be fun,” said Taylor.
Wildwood Farm is the largest undeveloped tract of land in Germantown. Taylor wants to make sure it stays that way and said it will benefit the entire community.
“We need more green space,” said Taylor. “I grew up in Germantown when there were basically very few paved roads, and it was just so fun to be able to ride through the countryside. I feel like it will be a nice transition from past, present to the future.”
She said the horse farm is a little oasis of beauty, a hidden gem that many will get to enjoy for years to come.