A Different Kind of Farm

Farms are usually associated with images like clean air, open spaces, and growing crops, but a body farm is not your typical establishment.  Body farms are places where forensic anthropologists study human decomposition under a variety of conditions.  Texas is home to two such research facilities.  One is located at Texas State University in San Marcos and the other is hosted at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville.  The information gathered on these farms is used to solve criminal investigations and train law enforcement officers.

Dr. Bill Bass, creator of the first body farm at the University of Tennessee in 1981, chronicled his work in two books titled Death's Acre and Beyond the Body Farm.  These books are not for anyone with a weak stomach but they are insightful and intriguing reads.  Dr. Bass, with help from journalist Jon Jefferson, comments on the process of human decomposition in a matter-of-fact and straightforward manner while also being respectful of those who have chosen to donate their bodies to the farm for research.

This type of facility might sound familiar if you tend to read mystery fiction.  Patricia Cornwell based her fifth book in the Scarpetta series on information she gathered while visiting the facility in Tennessee.  Jon Jefferson and Dr. Bill Bass also teamed up after writing Death's Acre to create a fictional crime series based on forensics research at the farm.