There are currently no regulations in place requiring a fruit or vegetable grower to obtain licensing from the SC Department of Agriculture to start a produce farm or to sell produce.
Seek Out the Farm Service Agency
Your local Farm Service Agency (FSA) can help connect you to other agriculture resources and programs in your area. Contact your local FSA agent to see which ones fit you best.
Find Out if You Must Comply with the Produce Safety Rule
The Produce Safety Rule, part of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), was passed by President Obama on January 4, 2011. This regulation focuses on setting the first-ever federal regulatory standards for the production, harvest, and handling of fruits and vegetables, in an effort to prevent microbial contamination and reduce foodborne illnesses associated with fresh produce. Depending on your farm’s annual income, not all growers will be required to comply with this regulation. It is strongly recommended you find out if you are required to comply with the federally mandated Produce Safety Rule. Visit scproducesafety.com or contact Kelly Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Connect with Clemson Extension Agents
Make friends with your local Clemson Horticulture Extension Agent. They can help provide technical assistance, pest management tips, and often hold seasonal grower meetings. To find your local agent, visit clemson.edu/extension/co/index.html.
In addition, take the Farming Foundations Course. Farming Foundations is a self-paced, online course developed by Clemson Extension. This course will teach beginner and advanced farmers the foundations to get their farms moving in the right direction. The class is focused on vegetable production but many topics such as soil testing, fertility, and irrigation can be applied to many different farming ventures. At the completion of the class, participants will have a portfolio that will help them in their farming journey. To register, visit https://cpe.clemson.edu/browse/extension/horticulture/courses/farming-foundations
Or register for the SC New and Beginning Farmer Program. The SCNBFP is focused on enabling new and beginning farmers to be successful, productive, and innovative members of their local agricultural community by providing them with the tools, knowledge and skills necessary to be successful entrepreneurs; sound business managers; exemplary stewards of SWAPA (soil, water, air, plants, and animals), and successful marketers of the unique products they create; and, perhaps most importantly, individuals who have a sense of pride and quality of life as a result of their investment and participation in the agricultural community of South Carolina. For more information visit, https://www.clemson.edu/extension/newfarmer/index.html
Find Grants and Other Funding Resources
The SC Specialty Crop Growers Association offers several grants providing technical assistance in areas such as cold storage and water testing. For more information visit, scspecialtycrop.com/grants.
The South Carolina Department of Agriculture offers cost share programs for obtaining organic certification and Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification. For more information visit, agriculture.sc.gov/grants.
There are many resources specific to minority and women farmers. To find which ones are available, visit agriculture.sc.gov/resources/resources-for-minority-and-women-farmers.
Learn About the SC Food Hub Network
With seven food hubs currently operating in South Carolina, there is ample opportunity for a grower to connect with the one in your area. Food hubs work directly with growers to get their products to local markets. Many provide technical assistance like crop planning. Get in touch with your local food hub to see if it is a right fit. foodhubnetworksc.com
Explore Direct-to-Consumer Models
There are many ways to get your products into the hands of consumers. If you are not quite ready to venture into retail markets, developing a direct-to-consumer model like a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a great option. A CSA is when consumers buy a “share” of the farm’s products upfront and receive a portion of the crops as they are harvested for a set amount of weeks. This benefits the farmer because they have the capital to invest in their farm and provides the consumer with fresh, local food.
Learn about more marketing strategies here.
Find Additional Resources
The Certified South Carolina program is an exciting cooperative effort with farmers, processors, wholesalers, retailers and the South Carolina Department of Agriculture (SCDA) to brand and promote South Carolina products. When consumers can easily identify, find and buy South Carolina products, they are taking home fresher, tastier foods and supporting local farmers. This is a free program. For more information, visit certifiedsc.com.
The SC Specialty Crop Growers Association supports the promotional, research, and educational efforts for improving the marketing and quality production of fresh fruit, vegetables, and specialty crops grown in South Carolina. They provide educational resources, grants, workshops, a monthly e-newsletter with the latest specialty crop news, and other relevant resources to help growers succeed. There is a $25 annual membership fee. For more information, visit scspecialtycrop.com.
The South Carolina Food Policy Council (SCFPC) exists to encourage the production and consumption of healthy, locally-grown food in the state of South Carolina. The SCFPC enables members to network, voice concerns, and develop partnerships, strategies, programming, and policy recommendations to foster a vibrant food system statewide. To create a clear conduit between localized challenges and statewide action, the Council hosts regular General Membership meetings, open to anyone, and facilitates committees across all sectors as well as provides funding and technical assistance to local food councils. Ultimately, this body represents a political platform that advocates for and with producers, network partners, and consumers. Committees meet regularly to discuss a variety of topics including racial equity, food access, nutrition, distribution, community planning, transportation, and branding; membership is free – join online here.
To support organizations and individuals working in food production and distribution, the SC Food Policy Council facilitates Growing Local SC, supports the Urban Local Food Committee, and collaborates with the Rural Resource Coalition on the Rural Local Food Committee. Growing Local SC represents a network of collaboration that ensures food is getting from farms and gardens to the table. The purpose of this project is to 1) connect and cultivate South Carolina’s local food economy, 2) develop a plan centered on addressing systemic inequities in the state’s food system, 3) catalyze action to address farmland loss, 4) increase capacity of the local food system, and 5) refine metrics for measuring partnerships. The SCFPC/Growing Local SC have created the SC Local Food System Roadmap and SC Farmer Resource Guide and are partnering with the Rural Resource Coalition on the creation of a Farmland Working Group in 2023.