Business & Industry
Watermelons (above) and peanuts (at left) are two of the crops grown in Barnwell County.
Agriculture in Barnwell County
ot only does agriculture produce food we need to survive, it means jobs and incomes for hundreds of families in Barnwell County. According to the latest data available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Barnwell County has 412 farms encompassing 92,679 acres. The average farm size is 225 acres. A variety of crops are produced throughout the year, including watermelons, strawberries, soybeans, cotton, peanuts, cantaloupes, peaches, corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, wheat, oats, hay and pecans. The county also has dairies and farms raising chickens and cattle. Many producers, big and small, sell their goods at Barnwell County’s two farmers markets located in Elko and Barnwell. Farmers have a number of resources locally to help them, such as the Farm Service Agency and Clemson Extension. Joe Varn, a Clemson Extension agent, said his job deals with research and making sure farmers are educated about the best practices and latest developments. The Edisto Research and Education Center in Blackville, one of only four such centers in the state, plays a big role in that. They test new products and herbicides against proven products so they can make recommendations to farmers on the best product to use. “Their task is to find better ways to grow and harvest crops, raise beef
cattle, and conserve natural resources. It’s problem solving centers like Edisto REC that make it possible for consumers to shop at supermarkets stocked with an abundance of high quality food,” states the center’s page on Clemson’s website. They also host field days at the research center centered on watermelons, peanuts, soybeans and cotton. These events are not only for farmers but the public as well. Future Farmers To help produce future generations of farmers, the Barnwell County Career Center offers public, private and home-schooled students an agriculture program. Mindy Sandifer, who has been the program’s instructor for 15 years, teaches six courses, which include wildlife management, agriculture science and forestry. She reestablished the program, which had been dormant for 20 years, with just eight students; however, it quickly became one of the career center’s most popular programs as it reaches capacity every year. Sandifer also oversees their FFA chapter, a youth organization associated with the agricultural program that “provides many leadership and career-building opportunities for students on a local, state and national level,” said Sandifer. FFA students compete in career development events, perform community service to meet their motto of “Living to Serve”.
“The FFA members work with Mrs. Shannon Herndon, county 4-H extension agent, the Barnwell County Farm Bureau, and the Colleton Bamberg Young Farmer’s Chapter to build agriculture awareness in the surrounding communities annually,” she said. The BCCC FFA chapter has been recognized nationally as one of the top chapters in the U.S. for several years. The partnership developed by chapter members and Sandifer with the adult members of the local agricultural industry has also garnered them recognition as the Southeast’s best for a couple years. Sandifer said more than 15 of her former students have completed college degrees and returned to the community to work in agriculture over the past several years. “Many of the graduates have full-time positions at the Edisto Research and Education Center, while others hold full-time positions with S.C. Department of Natural Resources, Collum’s Lumber, and local farming or landscaping operations.” Another graduate is the Agricultural Instructor at Aiken High School. 4-H is another resource in the county for children and teens. It’s a community of young people across America who are learning leadership, citizenship and life skills. Programs include: Science, Engineering and Technology; Citizenship and Healthy Lifestyles. For information on Barnwell County 4-H go to: www. clemson.edu/barnwell and click on the clover. The People-Sentinel • Information Please 2017 • 13
A guide to Barnwell County, SC