COLUMBIA — Farmers getting their feet wet in agribusiness have access to comprehensive entrepreneurial education and business training through a public service program offered by Clemson University.

The South Carolina New and Beginning Farmer Program is now accepting applications for the 2017-2018 statewide program. The deadline to apply is July 15. A application is online at www.scnewfarmer.org.

Participants in the S.C. New and Beginning Farmer program visit agribusinesses.

Participants in the South Carolina New and Beginning Farmer program visit agribusinesses.

The South Carolina New and Beginning Farmer Program provides new and beginning farmers with the tools, knowledge and skills necessary to be successful entrepreneurs, sound business managers, exemplary stewards of the natural environment and successful marketers of the unique products they create.

The program is managed by Clemson University Cooperative Extension’s agribusiness department under the direction of R. David Lamie. It is entering its sixth year and has guided more than 250 emerging farmers through the program.

The program offers two levels of instruction: “Level I, Exploring Farming as a Business” for emerging farmers with less than three years’ experience and “Level II, Taking Your Farm Business to the Next Level” for those who have been farming three to nine years. Both Level I and Level II programming is scheduled to begin October.

Core agribusiness workshops will be held centrally in Columbia and are focused on farm business management. Topics include business concept/plan development; financial and risk management; legal and regulatory issues; marketing strategies; personal assessment; and an introduction to federal, state and local agriculture resources.

Core programming will be complemented by regional workshops to be held throughout the state. These workshops will offer opportunities for local peer and resource networking, as well as provide additional instruction on production topics tailored for each region. Regional workshops are a collaborative effort between Clemson Agribusiness, Clemson Cooperative Extension, the Clemson Sustainable Agriculture Program, the Catawba Farm & Food Coalition, the Richland Soil & Water Conservation District and the S.C. Coastal Conservation League.

Participants in the S.C. New and Beginning Farmer Program attend an educational workshop.

Participants in the S.C. New and Beginning Farmer Program attend an educational workshop.

Guided farm tours, access to on-farm internships and participation in the S.C. New and Beginning Farmer Program Alumni Association are also featured program elements.

The S.C. New and Beginning Farmer Program fills a critical need to train emerging farmers in South Carolina.

“With the average age of South Carolina farmers now up to 59 years, we put our state’s largest industry at risk if we do not invest efforts into encouraging and training the next generation of successful agripreneurs,” Lamie said. “At a time when consumer demand for local, high-quality, nutritious farm products is on the rise, there is tremendous opportunity for rural economic development through a thriving local farm and food system.”

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The S.C. New and Beginning Farmer Program is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under grant award number 2016-70017-25351.

Any legal resident of South Carolina, at least 18 years of age, who is just beginning to farm or who has actively farmed for less than 10 consecutive years is eligible to apply for the South Carolina New and Beginning Farmer Program. Additional information, including program details, workshop schedule, fee structure, scholarship opportunities and an online application are at www.scnewfarmer.org.