Agriculture and tourism are among the primary industries that drive the state’s economy, and the South Carolina Ag + Art Tour has been bringing those two essential elements of its culture together for a dozen years.
Led by the Clemson Cooperative Extension Service, this year’s Ag + Art Tour kicks off in earnest April 18 from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at the University of South Carolina’s Russell House, where agritourism farm operators, government officials and county committees will convene to kick off another year of agriculture education, artisan exploration, rural collaboration and farm experience in South Carolina.
While the kickoff event has been sold out for some time, media are invited to attend to share the opportunity for this summer-long tourism adventure with their audiences.
The South Carolina Ag + Art Tour itself is a free, self-guided tour of farms and markets featuring local artisans at every stop. During the tour, visitors can see first-hand where their food comes from, watch artists in action and purchase their works, enjoy the melodies of local musicians and learn more about rural life. The tour is the largest free farm and art tour in the nation with over 85,000 visitors participating since 2012.
“We’re all about rural tourism, we’re all about agricultural tourism and the ag experience — that’s what this is all about, and that’s where I see it going for the future,” South Carolina Ag + Art Tour Director Will Culler said. “The Tour has grown over the years and touched the lives of so many people. Not just in agricultural education, but rural revitalization and community revitalization and economic development.”
The S.C. AG + Art Tour has operated in 15 South Carolina counties over the past 12 years, and the Tour has seen hundreds of farms in dozens of communities embrace agritourism as a method of farm enterprise diversification, agricultural education, and rural revitalization, and economic development.
The tour’s first official stop is May 6 in Lexington County, with numerous dates to follow from York County at the top of the state, to Colleton County near the bottom. For a full list of dates and locations, visit the official Ag + Art Tour website here.
Culler said the tour has grown so much, in fact, that some of the previous stops have reached the point they don’t need or can’t handle the extra traffic the Tour provides — which, of course, is the ultimate goal.
“Just this past year I was informed by the York County AG + Art Committee that several of their more mature agritourism farms, some of whom had participated in the tour for the past 12 years, would not be returning for the 2023 season. … It was not that they couldn’t enjoy the Tour or cherish the relationships the Tour offered. The reasons given were that these Agritourism venues no longer needed the Ag + Art Tour to realize their goals, to realize their passion. They had gotten their start, they had matured, and they had decided to step aside and let the next potential venue embrace agritourism,” Culler said. “And embrace agritourism is just what they have done. York County will see the same number of Tour stops (28) this year as last year. Some of them may be just a just a little less mature but ready to blossom.”
Culler, who also serves as a Senior Agribusiness Extension Agent and Lexington County Coordinator for Clemson Extension, was elected last year by the North American Farmers Direct Marketing Association to a three-year term on their Board of Directors.
“This was a great honor for me as this organization of over 700 farms in all 50 States, Canada and Europe is doing incredible things for agritourism,” he said.
More information about this organization and the resources it offers is available on its website https://nafdma.com/.
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