Residents in Hillsborough County, Florida, are concerned after plans were proposed to build experimental “body farm” in the area. The farm will be used as a crime research facility with up to 10 human cadavers placed across the property. The cadavers will allow researchers to understand what happens to bodies when left exposed to the Florida elements. However, community members say the project will expose the area to the risk of strong odors and unwanted predators, not to mention the decreased home value associated with the stigma of a nearby “body farm.”
WFTS reports that residents of Lithia, Florida, were told of the “body farm” project at a public hearing session. The body farm, formally called the Facility for Outdoor Experimental Research and Training, or FORT, is a joint project between the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and the USF Institute of Anthropology. The facility is designed as a crime research and training facility that would give researchers the opportunity to better study body decomposition in the Florida elements.
The facility is a first-of-its-kind in Florida, and proponents of the project say it will help investigators to better solve crimes and cold cases. The controversial portion of the facility will include the use of five to 10 human cadavers from the USF’s After Life Body Donation Program at a time for research. The cadavers will be buried or placed on the property and exposed to the environment.
Concerned citizens tell the Tampa Tribune that the body farm could cause unwanted predators to move to the area and strong odors may be presented. Concerning predators, resident Troy Watkins says the idea is dangerous to the community.
“In Texas they did studies on body farms and started with chickens, and chickens became the preferred meal for coyotes and panthers and other predators. Then they did it with cows and cows became their preferred meal. If you do it with human bodies what happens then? We have children.”
In addition, some worry about home values or the stigma associated with such a project. One resident, Terry Holden, says that the investment in people’s homes should be of primary importance.
“We got a bomb dropped on us about two weeks ago, which we did not appreciate. Most people have their largest investment in their homes, and as home owners it’s imperative we protect that investment. We live, work and play in Lithia; our opinion should be of primary importance.”
However, Erin Kimmerle, associate professor of anthropology at the University of South Florida, points out that the project could help bring closure to families of cold case victims and help crime scene investigators do their jobs better.
“Improving on our current methods helps solve long-term open cases and that’s what this is ultimately about. It’s a tremendous gift to give these remains back to a family.”
Those proposing the project say that the bodies will be fully guarded with seven-foot fences around the cadavers in all locations.
What do you think about the idea of a “body farm” for crime scene researchers? Would you oppose a project such as this in your community?
[Image Credit: Getty Images/ John Moore]