FLORENCE — If Albert Einstein could feel a bit lost, then anyone can.

So when South Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers began a keynote speech with a humorous anecdote about the legendary genius fretting over a missing train ticket, Weathers was doing more than just getting a laugh. The commissioner was making a larger point: agriculture in South Carolina had better not lose its way in the future.

And he was confident that it would not.

SC Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers gives a keynote speech at the SC AgriBiz & Farm Expo in Florence.

S.C. Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers gives a keynote speech at the SC AgriBiz & Farm Expo in Florence.
Image Credit: Clemson University / Jim Melvin

The commissioner proclaimed that the industry is clearly going in the right direction, and with more energy, efficiency and promise than ever before.

“I have been your commissioner for 10 years,” Weathers said at  last week’s SC AgriBiz & Farm Expo, “and I promise you I got up this morning with the same passion about what we’re doing with agriculture as I did 10 years ago. I think this holds true for all of the leadership in South Carolina.”

The jam-packed event at the Florence Civic Center was a fundraiser for the South Carolina Commissioner’s School for Agriculture at Clemson University. Combined with a silent auction, the breakfast raised more than $8,000 for the school, which for more than a decade has offered challenging summer programs at the University for rising 11th– and 12th-grade students.

Clemson’s Katie Black talks at the Commissioner’s Breakfast.

Clemson’s Katie Black talks at the Commissioner’s Breakfast.
Image Credit: Clemson University / Jim Melvin

“Right now (the Commissioner’s School) is planning this summer, but not just this summer,” Weathers said. “They’re planning five years from now. The great thing about planning beyond your next crop season or your next year is that you get to dream a little bit. The leadership in South Carolina needs to dream about five years from now, 10 years from now — what it will look like and where we are going.”

The morning after he and his wife attended the inauguration of Gov. Nikki Haley in Columbia, Weathers came to Florence more enthused than ever about the direction of agriculture in his state.

“Yesterday (at the inauguration) was a great day for Blanche and me personally,” Weathers said. “At last night’s gala, I looked at the next table and there was (Clemson President) Jim Clements and his wife (Beth). And so we went over and had a great visit. Did we talk about agriculture? Yes, a little bit. Did we talk about Clemson and Carolina? Oh, we talked about that a lot.”

But Weathers went on to say that the foursome spent most of their time together discussing their families.

“It just spoke to me that leadership is all about relationships,” Weathers said. “And the way I see it, we’ve got the best working relationship that we’ve ever had with everyone taking part in the future of this industry.”

Hunter Thompson, a past participant of the Commissioner's School, shares his experiences.

Hunter Thompson, a past participant of the Commissioner’s School, shares his experiences.

Also speaking at the event was Katie Black, student recruitment director for Clemson’s College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences. Black echoed Weathers’ positive outlook, emphasizing the strides the Commissioner’s School has made in recent years.

“I’ve been at Clemson recruiting for over 10 years now,” Black said, “and in the last three years it has been amazing to me the transition I have seen in the students’ increased interest in agriculture.”

Hunter Morton, a past participant of the school, has become one of its many ambassadors. “I can’t express how great a program this is,” Morton said at the breakfast. “The Commissioner’s School not only impacted my agricultural background, but also my life.”

The Commissioner’s School for Agriculture began under the leadership of Tom Dobbins, who was director of Clemson’s agricultural education program. He is now director of Clemson Extension, the statewide outreach program that delivers educational programs on agriculture and natural resources to commercial growers, livestock producers, land managers, small farmers, youth and families.