AgriBiz & Farm Expo offers training, updates to help SC farmers thrive
FLORENCE, S.C. – During the winter months, South Carolina farmers make crucial decisions about the coming growing season.
They analyze every detail of how to prepare the soil, what to plant and how much yield to expect. The choices they make will affect the year’s success and the future of their operation.
Seven years ago, a group of farmers and agriculture industry leaders created the annual South Carolina AgriBiz & Farm Expo to pull together the entire agribusiness industry and provide a venue for both farmers and the general public to learn about current issues and production innovations.
“Farmers need good information to make the best decisions for their farm,” said Jody Martin, the executive director of the expo. “We started the expo to help farmers by providing education sessions, networking opportunities and a large trade show to give them what they need to prepare for the year to come.
“The biggest challenge for them over the past several years is weather, and no one can control that. The second biggest is commodity prices. Farmers are being asked to be more efficient, effective and innovative. They have to figure out how to do more with less, and we want to help them do that.”
This year, the S.C. AgriBiz & Farm Expo will be held on Jan. 23-24 at the Florence Center in Florence. During the two-day event, there will be 26 educational sessions with 45 different speakers including university researchers, authors and industry professionals.
The expo will offer two general sessions and four educational tracks: field crops; fruits and vegetables; livestock; and women in agriculture.
By using experts from various fields, the regional expo works to offer national-level training. Some of the topics include growing industrial hemp, maximizing corn and soybean yields, trade, tariffs, the farm bill, livestock and fruit and vegetable production.
Admission is free. The sessions are open to both farmers and the general public.
Martin said a priority of the expo is to offer top-quality training on a diverse array of topics in order to cover the breadth of agriculture in South Carolina.
“The South Carolina agribusiness industry is responsible for over 212,000 jobs with an estimated impact of $41.7 billion and is a driving force in South Carolina’s economy,” Martin said. “The S.C. AgriBiz & Farm Expo is designed to bring individuals and organizations together to promote this rapidly growing industry.”
M.D. Floyd, an Olanta-area farmer and S.C. AgriBiz & Farm Expo farmer advisory committee member, said the expo offers an opportunity for farmers to see what goes on at national conventions but still get training specific for the Southeast.
“At the national meetings, you probably won’t get as much information about our area and the things we face here,” Floyd said. “I would say the experts speaking at the expo will share things that can help farmers make real management decisions. Some of the tips could help farmers save themselves on their 2019 crop.”
Along with expert advice from education sessions, Floyd looks to the tradeshow floor to gather additional valuable insight. With more than 100 exhibitors of farm equipment, supplies and services, the trade show attracts farmers looking to stay updated on the newest technology, products and services as well as simply visit with fellow farmers. Networking with other producers provides valuable insight and fresh perspectives, Floyd said.
Ty Woodard raises crops and cattle on his family farm near Mont Clare and has attended the expo every year. Like Floyd, Woodard sees a lot of benefit in the social element of the expo. Since farmers do not have much free time during the year to network with fellow producers, they can take advantage of the time together at the expo.
“We are able to encourage one another and get ideas from each other,” Woodard said. “When we are able to get together with other people interested in agriculture, it’s beneficial in a lot of ways not only for farmers but for the public in general.”
Events like the Taste of South Carolina, a ticketed event set for 6:15 p.m. on Jan. 23, are designed to introduce people to the wide variety of foods and products grown in South Carolina. Woodard said farmers have a responsibility to not only learn but also educate people who might not have agriculture experience.
“At the end of the day, we want to be better at what we do and be better for everyone involved,” Woodard said. “Agriculture is the No. 1 industry in the state. It’s important that we share with the public what we do and help them understand they’re food doesn’t just come from the grocery store shelf.
“I think anybody from any background will learn something from being at the expo.”