Mississippi State recently dedicated the John and Jane Player Walnut Facility near the Natchez Trace Parkway. The dedication ceremony was held in April at the facility, located near the parkway's mile marker 132, with the Players in attendance. The couple donated the 59 acres adjoining the parkway in Madison County to further walnut research in the state. The players also made the initial $1 million pledge during Mississippi State's first capital campaign. The College of Forest Resources received the gift to create the Jane and John Player Endowment to support walnut research and technology development at Mississippi State. The fund was established for funding research and graduate instruction applicable to production of black walnut. The players have devoted considerable time, effort, and resources to the growing of walnut trees on their farm in Madison and on surrounding land owned in Madison County. Mr. Player, a retired consulting geologist and a 1940 graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder, began experimenting with walnut trees more than a decade ago as a hobby. He approached Mississippi State to further the project, he said, because of the university's strong program in forestry. "John and Jane Player have had a vision for the growth and production of walnut trees and their products as a source of economic development in the rural parts of Mississippi," said Dr. Sam Foster, dean of the College of Forest Resources. "Their generous gift to the college will aid future generations of Mississippi citizens as they seek ways to gain value from their land." The university and the college also recognized the Players during a spring campus event that outlined walnut research progress. "The foresight and generosity of the Players in establishing and endowment for walnut research has made possible the work in conservation, improvement, and regeneration of this highly-valued native tree species," said Dr. Emily B. Schultz, associate professor of forestry. "Black walnut has received very little attention in the Deep South except for the harvest of highly valued individual trees. Very little is known about its distribution, growth, and site requirements in Mississippi, but its potential for providing income opportunities for landowners is substantial," she said. Schultz said Mississippians have expressed increasing interest over the last several years in growing walnut trees, and the comprehensive research program funded by the Players' gift will help landowners identify proper planting sites, employ appropriate management practices, and project economic returns. "Identification of superior natives trees coupled with efforts in regeneration and improvement will help assure the conservation of one of Mississippi's valuable natural resources," she said. Without the Players' gift, this new income opportunity for Mississippi landowners would not be realized," Schultz said.