The South Carolina House of Representatives has recognized Clemson Cooperative Extension’s Ag + Art Tour as a “national example” of a program that emphasizes agritourism to showcase the state’s farms and farmers.
State Rep. Randy Ligon of Chester County read the resolution to the audience gathered at the Tour’s kickoff banquet April 18 at the University of South Carolina’s Russell House in Columbia before presenting a copy to Clemson Extension Senior Agribusiness Agent Will Culler, who serves as the Tour’s director.
The resolution was made to celebrate the annual Ag + Art Tour to be held throughout May and June 2023, to encourage all South Carolinians to patronize and enjoy this family-friendly event and to wish its organizers every success.
“This wonderful collaboration between the Clemson Extension and multiple local and state agencies allows artisans and farmers to work together in showcasing art and agriculture in the Palmetto State,” the resolution reads.
“The popular South Carolina Ag + Art Tour is a national example of a program highlighting farm and art collaboration, rural revitalization, farm experience and agricultural education,” it adds.
Full text of the resolution is available here.
The South Carolina Ag + Art Tour 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.
“This tour is a wonderful opportunity to showcase the rich cultural heritage in our state and to celebrate our hard-working farmers,” Culler said.
South Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers said the Tour is a chance for people in the state to learn exactly where their food comes from and “the beauties of agritourism.”
“Blending in the art component to it, I just think that’s fascinating. … The variety of opportunities that families have now to do that and the way it’s grown with the number of counties involved is a clear example of how a collaborative effort gets the results in receives,” Weathers said.
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.
“We’re learning that food does not come from the grocery store; it comes from farmers. Our farmers know that, of course, but not everybody in the state knows that. It’s a connection to the land that, if we’re not careful, we’re only a generation or two away from losing,” Clemson College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences Dean Keith Belli said.
Rep. Mike Neese, of Lancaster County, said the Tour was also a chance to expose young people to a childhood much like his own, growing up on a farm, being an Eagle Scout and participating in 4-H. But Neese added it could also teach the parents as much as the kids.
“Things that we take for granted having grown up in the agriculture community — you know, they’ve never touched a chicken,” he said.
Neese said he first attended the tour in 2013 with the Indian Land Farm Club.
“I’m remembering that, here, 9 years later, we’re at this kickoff event and looking to expand and grow that much more,” he said.
The Ag + Art Tour began as a single-county tour in York County and has grown into a 13-county annual event. Many of the farms that joined the tour in 2012 still participate today, and many of the artisans return year after year to demonstrate their craft and sell their goods, said Melanie Cooper of the Arts Council of York County.
“One of our farmers retired several years ago and wound up selling their property to a family from Atlanta that had visited the years earlier, visited during the Ag + Art Tour and fell in love with York County and the farm itself. Watching the York County Tour grow from 11 tour sites and 25 artisans to 28 sites and more than 115 artisans in 2023 has been rewarding,” Cooper said.
“Agritourism encourages people, especially the younger generation, to seriously consider farming as a viable career choice. It’s a slowly shrinking industry that without which we would go hungry,” she added.
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