Thursday’s second editorial turns our attention to Horry County’s rural life:
With the beach’s focus squarely on retail, accommodations and leisure industries, it’s sometimes easy to forget that much of Horry County is dominated by family farms, some of which go back generations. Agricultural industry provided the backbone of the region’s economy for decades before tourism grew to its current juggernaut status. The recognition this month of Thompson Farm and Nursery near Conway as South Carolina’s Small Farm of the Year brings that reality back to the forefront.
The farm has become an admirable combination of modern innovations and historical ties. It has embraced new ideas, with tours, a petting zoo, its popular corn maze and its own community supported agriculture program, which delivers fresh produce around the area. At the same time, it has maintained a strong link to its deep roots, which stretch back more than 160 years. The farm contains Horry County’s oldest barn, built in 1910, and the farmhouse built in 1825 also still stands. It’s hardly the only veteran in the area, however. Just Tuesday, Stevens Farm near Loris was designated an official Century Farm, begun in 1845 and still owned by the same family.
Horry County had 914 farms in 2007, at the time of the latest census of agriculture. It was actually an increase from 10 years prior, when there were 896 farms in the county. It’s encouraging to see the numbers holding steady, and CSAs or similar farm-to-table programs are a wonderful recent outgrowth of our area’s agricultural heritage.
Thompson isn’t alone in its CSA program. Sugarfoot Farms in Conway and Millgrove Farms in Georgetown offer similar programs, in which residents purchase shares of the farm’s produce. We’ve seen any number of “buy local” initiatives over the years, but CSAs and farm-to-table or farm-to-school plans – in which farms send their produce directly to restaurants or schools – are among the best results of this urge to help local entrepreneurs. Everybody wins in these setups, the farmer who has a steady market for his produce, the consumer who gets produce often pulled from the ground that day, and the environment, which is spared the tolls of transportation and packaging.
Congratulations, Thompson Farm. Keep up the good work and smart adaptations and we have no doubt you’ll still be farming 160 years from now.