Bigelow tea plantation in Charleston.

Bigelow tea plantation in Charleston.

Dive deep into South Carolina’s varied industry, and you’ll see the state holds its own as an agriculture powerhouse. While South Carolina is recognized as a top poultry producer, consumers may be surprised to learn just how diverse the state’s $42 billion ag industry is – cultivating fresh produce, seafood, forestry products, dairy, and more.

South Carolina has more than 25,200 farms spread across its landscape, with an average size of 197 acres each. In total, they encompass about 4.9 million acres of land. Farmers grow and raise the state’s many agricultural products including the top commodities – broilers, turkeys, greenhouse and nursery products, cotton, and corn.

But South Carolina agriculture is more than just crops and livestock. The Department of Agriculture has implemented several state programs to help show agriculture’s importance and give consumers easy access to the state’s fresh bounty.

In the fight against obesity, South Carolina unveiled the Obesity Action Plan in 2014 to help improve access to fruits and vegetables for low-income families. The plan also helps expand the Farm-to-School program – which brings local products to school cafeterias – and provides safe, accessible parks for the communities.

To encourage eating fresh produce, several South Carolina farmers markets are accepting WIC vouchers from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Farmers Market Nutrition Program. Participants can use their checks to purchase South Carolina-grown, unprocessed produce and herbs. Consumers can learn more about all of these programs on the South Carolina Department of Agriculture’s new website, agriculture.sc.gov, which features easy-to-navigate information on ag organizations, farmers markets, agritourism, agency operations and much more.

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South Carolina’s agriculture industry wouldn’t be able to stay as innovative if not for the continued education from area colleges and universities, each offering impressive programs that prepare young minds to continue building and growing the state’s vital industry.

chicken

Flock Stars

South Carolina’s poultry industry is something to cluck about.

Broilers, or chickens raised for meat, and turkeys comprise the top two agricultural commodities in the Palmetto State, and poultry represents 40 percent of all South Carolina agriculture. It greatly impacts the state economy as well, bringing in about $1.4 billion per year and generating approximately 7,500 jobs.

While broilers, turkeys and eggs are the heavy hitters, South Carolina poultry includes smaller poultry industries too, such as quail, pigeon, poussin and squab.

Learn more about the state’s industry at scpoultry.org.

South Carolina Commodity [INFOGRAPHIC]

South Carolina Grown

If you’re looking to buy local, let Certified South Carolina be your guide.

The program, run by the Department of Agriculture, is a cooperative effort among producers, processors, wholesalers and retailers to brand and identify products made in South Carolina.

Consumers can look for the Certified S.C. Grown or Certified S.C. product logo in stores to support local producers and find the freshest food available. The program also encompasses Certified S.C. Seafood and Fresh on the Menu, which features restaurants using local food.

For more information on where to buy local and how to join the program, visit certifiedscgrown.com.

Ag Central

Agricultural exports are a big deal in South Carolina. Essential for the industry and economy, every $1 billion in agricultural exports supports 9,000 U.S. jobs.

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As one of the state’s busiest ports, the Port of Charleston sees an impressive number of agricultural goods pass through each month, including paper and paperboard, wood pulp, logs and lumber, raw cotton, poultry, and lawn and garden equipment. All of these products fall within the list of South Carolina’s top 20 agricultural exports.

State Fairs

See You At The Fair

Lively entertainment, mouthwatering fried foods, exciting carnival rides, and equally fun and educational exhibits. These are just a few of the many things to see and do at South Carolina’s nationally ranked state fair.

The 2015 event will be held Oct. 14-25 at the fairgrounds in Columbia. Visitors have the chance to learn, taste and see all that the state’s agriculture industry has to offer, with exciting cooking demonstrations featuring local foods and presentations on some of South Carolina’s top commodities like cotton, peanuts, beef, peaches and more.

Kids of all ages should stop by the From Field to Fair area, where they can explore South Carolina’s agricultural roots and discover how the industry impacts the state.

For more information and a full schedule of events, visit scstatefair.org.

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