Agriculture in South Carolina is a long and proud tradition. As the 2012 Census of Agriculture showed us, even today, nearly 5 million acres of our state’s land is dedicated to farming, that’s almost a quarter of all land in South Carolina.
The latest agriculture census also showed that the number of farms in South Carolina has remained steady for the past 15 years at roughly 25,000. The Palmetto State farmers sold more than $3 billion worth of agricultural products. That’s a whopping 29.2 percent increase in sales in just five years. Of these sales, $1.5 billion – nearly half of the total agricultural product sales in South Carolina – came from poultry and egg sales.
On the crops front, corn and soybean production led the pack, with 2,449 and 1,760 farms respectively growing these crops in 2012. That year we also saw a great increase in cotton farming in South Carolina, with 783 farms growing that crop on 300,000 acres. That’s the largest number of farms growing cotton since the 1997 Census of Agriculture and nearly double the acreage since 2007.
Of course no description of South Carolina’s agriculture can be complete without a mention of peaches and peanuts. More than 300 of South Carolina’s farms dedicate more than 16,000 acres to peach orchards. As for peanuts, there are now nearly 500 farms growing that crop, with more than 100,000 acres dedicated to it. Our peanut acreage has nearly doubled since the 2007 census.
In addition to these more conventional farms, South Carolina also has its share of more unique niche farms. The 2012 agriculture census counted 499 bee and honey farms, 45 rabbit farms, 15 alpaca farms, and even six llama farms in our state. In addition to these specialty farms, aquaculture has a strong presence in South Carolina as well. You can find catfish, ornamental fish, and game fish farms in our state.
South Carolinians will also be happy to know that there are plenty of vegetables grown right here in our own state. In 2012, more than 1,400 farms harvested vegetables in the Palmetto State. Thousands of farmland acres were dedicated to watermelons, tomatoes, snap beans, cucumbers, and potatoes. And with 1,581 farms selling products directly for consumption and 152 South Carolina farms participating in consumer supported agriculture or CSA programs, it is getting easier and easier for all residents of South Carolina and neighboring states to access South Carolina Grown food.
I could go on and on about South Carolina’s agriculture, but instead I welcome everyone interested in learning more to visit South Carolina’s Census of Agriculture page.