Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the May-June issue of Down Home Magazine, published by The Herald.
It started five years ago in one county. This year, it will span 11 counties in South Carolina with about 80 farms.
June’s Ag+Art Tour started in 2012 in York County with 18 farms and 25 artisans. The tour attracted 3,000 visitors in one weekend.
Today, the four-weekend event is touted as the largest free farm and art tour in the nation. More than nine counties participated in 2016 with 55 farms and 150 artisans visited by more than 10,000 guests.
“People are wanting to become more aware of where their food comes from,” said Ben Boyles, Clemson Extension Service agribusiness agent and tour director. “The tour provides a venue to put a ‘face with our food.’”
During the free, self-guided tour, visitors see firsthand where their food comes from. They also watch local artists in action and can purchase works.
“The tour provides a venue to showcase the homegrown and handmade heritage of participating counties,” Boyles said. “Visitors leave the tour with a new story that will last a lifetime.”
Each weekend in June reaps new farms in different counties to tour. Check out York and Chester counties the second weekend, and Lancaster County the third weekend.
“We do not charge an admission fee, for us the admission fee is when a visitor purchases something from a participating farm or artisan,” Boyle said. “Farms and artisans benefit from direct sells, increased exposure and new connections.”
What you could see
Tour stops include family farms that produce food (produce or protein), fiber or timber, or add value to traditional agricultural products (on-farm breweries, cideries and cheesemakers), or other farm-based activities, such as farmer’s markets and roadside stands.
“Visitors can expect to get an up close and personal look of a farm while enjoying the work of local artisans,” Boyle said. “Pick a weekend – or all four – and plan your itinerary in advance as there will be too much to visit during the tour weekend. Don’t forget to pack a cooler to pick up fresh, local goodies.”
In 2014, guests flocked to Fishing Creek Creamery in Chester County to see the goat farm run by David and Melinda Cole.
Last year, Anne Springs Close Greenway in Fort Mill offered guided tours of its historic cabins, as artisan Cindy Bennitt demonstrated spinning wool into yarn and potter Susan Miller shared her craft.
J&J Family Farm in Clover shared how to cultivate mushrooms and garlic, and demonstrated beekeeping. Catch-and-release fishing with your own rod and reel also was available on the farm’s stocked bass pond.
Chef Ed Currie of PuckerButt Pepper Co. in Fort Mill shared how he came to grow peppers and be recognized in the 2013 Guinness World Record for the world’s hottest chili pepper. He also shared pepper creations for sampling.
At Historic Brattonsville, York County’s antebellum plantation in McConnells, costumed interpreters offered demonstrations in 18th-century gardening, blacksmithing and hearth cooking. The 800-acre site is home to a flock of Gulf Coast sheep, Dominique chickens and Ossabaw Island hogs.
On the tour
Tour stops include:
▪ York County: Anne Springs Close Greenway Garden, Baker Farm, Black's Peaches, Bush-N-Vine Farm, Curtin Farms, Downtown York Farmers Market, Ferebee Farm, Historic Brattonsville, J&J Family Farm, Ketchen Place Farm, Myersart and Farm, Penny Family Farm, Rock Hill Educational Community Garden, Rock Ridge Farm, Roger Ridge Ranch, Sanders Peaches, Sharon Hill Farm, Tega Hills Farm, The Peach Tree Orchard and Windy Hill Orchard & Cidery.
▪ Lancaster County: No. 9 Lumber, Benford Brewing Co., Craig Farm, Dixie Bee Supply, The Garden at the Native American Studies Center, Griff's Greenhouse & Nursery, The Ivy Place, Lancaster County Farmers Market and S.C. Truffieres & Howell Specialty Farmz.
▪ Chester County: Chester Farmers and Artisans Market, Cotton Hills Farm, Fishing Creek Creamery, Gaston Farm Road Equestrian Center, Powell Farm, Puddle Moon Farm, Red Bug Barn, Thames Farm and Watson Farms.
▪ Saturday-Sunday: Chesterfield, Darlington, Florence and Horry counties
▪ June 10-11: Chester and York counties
▪ June 17-18: Kershaw and Lancaster counties
▪ June 24-25: Fairfield, Newberry and Union counties
Times: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and 1-5 p.m. Sundays.
Tour trail: Participants can start at any farm to pick up tour passport guide and tour information. Be sure to sign in each weekend.
More: The South Carolina Ag + Art Tour is coordinated by Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service and the Olde English District Tourism Commission. Partner organizations include economic development, commerce, Rock Hill/York County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, farm and artisan organizations, education and extension office, the Arts Council of York County and community volunteers. The Ag + Art Tour of York County is sponsored by AgSouth and the York County Farm Bureau.