ORANGEBURG, S.C. – South Carolina State University and Clemson University were granted $70 million by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide resources to farmers in South Carolina to encourage climate-smart production practices.
“With this grant, I am hoping that it will help the small farmers and that it’s economically feasible for small farmers,” farmer said Jackie Frazier, an SC State alumnus and owner of Barefoot Farms in Beaufort, South Carolina.
Congressman James E. Clyburn state officials, farmers and reporters were invited to SC State’s campus on Tuesday to learn more about how this grant will cater to the agricultural incentives of local farmers. Farmers who attended the press conference shared their thoughts on how the grant could benefit them.
“My takeaway is that there are a lot of efforts by the federal government to make sure farmers are in fact sustaining themselves. Hopefully this grant will make it to farmers directly and impact the farmers who are on the ground,” farmer Daryl Orage said.
Orage is an SC State alumnus and a partner of SC State’s 1890 Research and Extension Program. He is also president of the South Carolina Black Farmers Coalition.
“We have seen locally how climate change has impacted our farmers. We’ve had farmers who’ve had problems with their crops being damaged by salination, so we do see a change in the actual climate. Hopefully with this effort, it will reverse that trend,” Orage said.
SC State farmer partners, Tony Jones, Daryl Orage and Jackie Frazier
Farmer Tony Jones with Morning Glory Homestead Farm LLC is another partner of SC State’s 1890 Extension Program. He also gave his thoughts on the press conference and efforts being made by the USDA to help local farmers.
“Things are getting better. Before Dr. Whitesides (Dr. Louis Whitesides, SC State vice president & executive director of 1890 Land Grant Programs) came on board, a lot of things were disjointed,” Jones said. “Sometimes you would reach out to some folks, and it would take them some time to get back to you. But I think now is a new day and I’m optimistic.
“It’s applaudable that the universities are getting the grant. It’s good to get the information out to farmers and help to educate farmers on the various programs. And more importantly not just educate, but make sure the money trickles down,” he said.
Jones and his wife run their own farm. They also promote and sell all their products through their website and social media platforms. After purchasing the product online, their customers then come to the farm to pick it up.
As a farmer it is important for Jones to stay up to date on marketing techniques for the productivity of his farm.
“My understanding is that with this grant, small farmers will have better access and understanding of technology, such as micro irrigation that conserves water. We hope to use precision ag methods for soil sampling and drones to get a good overview of crops. So, I think those are some of the things that will be addressed with this program,” said Mark Nettles, 1890 Research and Extension agent.
Nettles is an extension agent for the Midlands region of South Carolina. He has been working in the agricultural field for at least 26 years and with his experience, he has seen how the environment has fluctuated over the past few decades. He hopes that this grant can solve some of the agricultural issues that he and his partners have encountered.
“What we do as extension agents is work with grants and different programs to help our farmers do a better job of farming and learning about new crops,” he said. “There are always new issues – new insects, new weed problems — so it’s an everchanging thing.
“I think this grant will help make a difference, and I think it’s a great opportunity for both universities to work together. I’m very excited for the partnership and am looking forward to what’s going to happen,” Nettles said.