As a diverse and growing industry, agriculture is a much bigger part of the Palmetto State than one might realize.
From national rankings and top commodities to a variety of agritourism destinations and educational programs, South Carolina’s agriculture industry contributes a significant amount to the economy while supporting a wide variety of jobs.
Approximately 27,000 farms spread across 4.9 million acres of fertile land, with the average farm totaling 181 acres. The state also boasts 13.1 million acres of forestland, or 68 percent of South Carolina’s total land area.
Those farms work together to grow and raise top agricultural commodities including broilers (chickens for meat), turkeys, greenhouse and nursery products, cotton, and cattle and calves. The state ranks high nationally in other crops as well. It comes in at No. 2 in freestone peaches, No. 4 in flue-cured tobacco and No. 5 in both peanuts and cantaloupes.
South Carolina’s top tier of agriculture is its poultry industry, which incorporates chickens, broilers and turkeys. The industry represents 40 percent of all agriculture in the state and 80 percent of animal agriculture, contributing $1.5 billion in sales per year. Not only do these birds bring a significant amount in cash receipts, but the poultry industry is also key in providing jobs for South Carolinians. As a whole, the sector generates approximately 7,500 jobs, not including allied jobs.
Forestry is another major player for the state, contributing over 44,000 jobs and ranking high in exports. In fact, South Carolina exports about $1 billion in forest products each year.
But agriculture in the state is much more than crops and commodities. The industry encompasses agricultural education, research and agritourism spots such as wineries, pumpkin farms and corn mazes.
The state’s Department of Agriculture is working hard to make consumers aware of where their food comes from with programs like Certified South Carolina. The program is a cooperative effort to brand and promote products produced in the state, connecting farmers with their customers. Along with other state initiatives, like Farm to School and Fresh on the Menu, these programs are bringing support to South Carolina’s local food movement.