AgriBiz & Farm Expo continues to expand its agricultural roots
FLORENCE, South Carolina — Though the agribusiness community in South Carolina endured more than its fair share of bad breaks this past year, the fifth annual SC AgriBiz & Farm Expo showed once again that the state’s No. 1 industry has maintained its hope and enthusiasm.
Hundreds of farmers, exhibitors and scientists from the Southeast and across the United States attended the Jan. 11-12 event at the Florence Civic Center. The expo combined the industry’s traditional roots with an array of promising new technologies to promote the expansion of agribusiness in South Carolina. It also featured an assortment of commercial agricultural educational programs, more than 130 exhibitors, a special Youth Day and a two-day Small Farmer Symposium.
“There’s a lot of excitement and optimism about the direction agribusiness is headed in the state of South Carolina,” executive director Jody Martin said. “And I’m not talking about just diehard farmers. A lot of people on the outer edges of agriculture took part in the expo. For instance, a group of 40 or 50 guidance counselors from high schools around the region came to learn about the industry so that they could help promote the career opportunities of agribusiness to their youth. I told them, ‘Every one of your kids has a chance to be employed by one of the 130 different exhibiting companies that are out here.’ So we’re building strong connections with the entire community.”
Though the expo attracted growers and other agribusiness leaders, the public was also encouraged to attend. Functions included the Commissioner’s Breakfast, with a keynote address by S.C. Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers; and a Taste of South Carolina, which offered farm-to-table meals by four featured chefs: William Cribbs of Cribbs Kitchen in Spartanburg; Amy Fortes of Flipside Café in Fort Mill; Adam Kirby of Bistro 217 in Pawleys Island; and Sean Mendes of Roadside Seafood in Charleston.
“We’ve got a great team working on behalf of agribusiness in our state,” Weathers said. “There’s Clemson Extension, in all its forms and fashions, the Farm Bureau, the Palmetto Agribusiness Council and many others. The South Carolina Department of Agriculture works with all these groups so that the people who earn their livelihood in this business have as many options as possible.”
Clemson University participants included Cooperative Extension director Thomas Dobbins; associate Extension director Brian Callahan; Simpson Research and Education Center director John Andrae; Pee Dee Research and Education Center director Matt Smith; economist Nathan Smith; research scientist Brian Ward; precision engineer Kendall Kirk; horticulturist Matthew Cutulle; entomologist Jeremy Greene; ag technician Hollens Free; plant pathologist Tony Keinath; and Extension specialists/agents John Chastain, Jay Crouch, Richard Hassell, Terasa Lott, Tony Melton, Bernt Nelson, Julie Northcutt and Powell Smith.
Katie Black, director of student recruitment and new media for the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences (CAFLS), was one of Clemson’s most visible contributors.
“I met with dozens of students and parents about the agricultural programs offered by Clemson,” Black said. “I just finished talking to a 4-H group from Florence County – a mix of public and private school kids – about Clemson and just college in general. This event is a fabulous networking opportunity, giving students an opportunity to learn about what these ag companies are about. The expo is effective for us in recruiting but even more so in building new relationships.”
Daveon Holmes, a sophomore at Carvers Bay High in Hemingway, South Carolina, said he is considering a career in agribusiness and that Clemson University is near the top of his list of colleges he might attend.
“I came to the expo hoping to learn more about agriculture and the many opportunities it presents for a student like me,” Holmes said. “I’m very impressed by what I’ve seen here and am really excited about my future.”
Sam Parker, a junior at Pendleton High, said she is attracted to Clemson both by its academics and location.
“I’ve thought a lot about Clemson because it’s close to home, which will enable me to take care of my horses,” Parker said. “I’m considering going into either natural resource conservation or equine sciences. I feel like everything else in the world stems off agriculture at some point, so to be a part of something that encompasses so many aspects of our lives would be really cool.”
“Making It Grow,” the Emmy Award-winning live call-in program produced by ETV and Clemson University, also appeared at the expo. Host Amanda McNulty of Clemson Extension conducted 17 separate interviews with dignitaries and presenters. The crew included producer Sean Flynn, production manager Tommy Burgess and operations manager of ETV-Sumter Craig Ness.
Expo sponsors and partners included Clemson University, S.C. Department of Agriculture, S.C. Farm Bureau, John Deere, ArborOne Farm Credit, The Scoular Company, Nationwide Insurance, AgSouth Farm Credit, Southeast Farm Press, S.C. State, Palmetto Agribusiness Council, S.C. Farm Service Agency, Ag Leader Technology, Birdsong Peanuts, Dixon Hughes Goodman, Nexsen Pruet, CAFLS, S.C. Future Farmers of America, Agri Supply, ARMtech, Anderson Brothers Bank, HaysLTI, Southern Farm Network, Hog Slat and Wake Stone Corp.