RICHBURG — A news conference and kick-off event for the 2014 Ag and Art Tour was held at the Gateway in Richburg on Tuesday to announce plans for the newly formed Catawba Regional Ag and Art Tour.
Guests were able to get a sneak peak at what they will see along the tour, which will be held June 21 and June 22 in Fairfield, York, Chester and Lancaster counties.
Attendees heard from guest speakers from the S.C. Department of Agriculture, S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, S.C. Arts Commission, S.C. Department of Commerce and the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Services.
Each county set up a combined 20 vendor booths for guests to patronize. It gave the vendors an opportunity to showcase their art work, food samples and demonstrations to those in attendance.
“I’m overwhelmed by what I see and I’m looking forward to kicking off this event,” S.C. Department of Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers said.
Weathers is a third-generation dairy farmer and has been the S.C. Department of Agriculture Commissioner since 2006 and believes agribusiness is important to all of South Carolina.
“We are seeing that agritourism is becoming a great part of the agriculture commitment that portfolios agribusiness across South Carolina,” he said.
The Catawba Regional Ag and Art Tour is a free self guided tour of farms featuring local artisans at each stop. With the four counties combined, the tour is the largest free farm tour in the nation with 48 sites available to visit. It is also the only farm tour in the state that also features artisans.
The first tour started in 2012 in York County with a total of 3,000 visitors. In 2013, the tour expanded to York and Lancaster counties with a total of 6,000 visitors.
The York County Ag and Art Tour has been selected as a winner in the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) County Activities of Excellence (CAE) program. It was the only South Carolina winner chosen from 123 applicants nationally.
The tour is coordinated by a regional leadership team and county-level planning teams that are coordinated by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service and the Olde English District Tourism Commission.
Partnering organizations from Fairfield, Chester, York and Lancaster Counties such as economic development, tourism, farm and artisan organizations, education and extension, arts councils and community volunteers are included in the planning as well.
Weathers said he wants the communities to get to know the people who put food on their tables and clothes on their backs.
“We really want to make it convenient for people to get involved and learn more about South Carolina,” he stated.
Even though the tour consists of four counties working together to host the event, each county still maintains its local and county integrity and will host an individual kick-off event.
Fairfield County’s kick-off event will be held June 17 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the lawn of the Century House in Ridgeway. There will be BBQ, art and music.
June 21’s festivities will go from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and June 22’s will go from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
During this weekend-long event, visitors will have the opportunity to see first-hand where their food comes from, watch artists in action and purchase their work, dance to melodies of bluegrass and learn more about rural life.
A business of farm that relies on natural resources of the land, such as family farms, vineyards, wineries, breweries, orchards, organic farming or roadside stands. Such enterprises produce food, fiber, unique crops or livestock.
An individual craft artisan studio business that makes hand crafted objects without the use of kits, commercials models and whose primary components are not manufactured. Craft Artisans will be located at Farm Sites or farm related venues.
For more information about the Ag and Art Tour, contact Ben Boyles, Ag and Art Tour Chairman at 803-981-3021 or visiting www.agandarttour.com.