FLORENCE, S.C. — Clemson and South Carolina extension programs did their part to help educate Pee Dee farmers during the two-day S.C. AgriBiz & Farm Expo at the Florence Civic Center.

Clemson Extension offers public outreach in all 46 counties while the South Carolina State University 1890 Research Program also serves all regions of the state with several research projects.

Zack Snipes, area horticulture agent for Clemson Extension, was in attendance Thursday sharing his experience working in the coastal areas, which includes large-scale commercial and specialty farmers.

His work saves farmers thousands of dollars and improves sustainability along with helping emerging farmers. Snipes is the co-developer for School Gardens for S.C. Educators programs that has installed 150 gardens and trained hundreds of educators in the state. He joined Clemson Extension six years ago.

“Clemson Extension takes research-based information to the farmers,” Snipes said. “Our job is to help with the best way to grow crops on farms in order to make them more profitable.”

Snipes said he stumbled into agriculture through an internship after graduation and after receiving his master’s degree, took on the job.

“My role at the expo was to help facilitate the Farmer of the Year session here,” he said. “I nominated the South Carolina Farmer of the Year, Sidi Limehouse, this year and hosted him and his family.”

Limehouse, of John’s Island, has been farming for 70 years.

Snipes said the expo has a big impact.

“We have so much diversity as far as crops and the different growing regions in the state,” he said. “It’s just good to have an event this centralized where farmers of different backgrounds can go to and learn and network. It’s a good chance for Clemson Extension to put out some of that research that we are doing and get it out to the farmers.”

Snipes said farming in his area is helping with the need of producing fruits and vegetables.

“There are over 700 restaurants in the Charleston area, and each one needs to buy food and they want to buy something local,” he said. “When they can pair a farm with a restaurant it makes that product more valuable.”

Shawn Smith of South Carolina State University’s 1890 Extension Program serves the Pee Dee region and brings along 18 years of experience.

“We provide the same outreach services as well,” Smith said. “I’m here at the expo representing our program and letting farmers know we are here to help.”

Smith said the expo is a great opportunity to network.

“They are very helpful providing other resources for people to come out and see what is available,” Smith said.

Ron and Shirbey Johnson of Lake View paid a visit to the expo Thursday to gather information. Ron Johnson has been a rancher for the past four years and often attends the annual event.

“I have Black Angus cows and wanted to see the new stuff they have out and check out the new products,” Ron Johnson said. “It is helpful. It’s how I got started by coming here utilizing some of their services and learning about the USDA programs.”

Johnson also attended S.C. State University and said he gained interest in the five-year process of becoming a rancher because he likes to see cows grazing.

“I’m enjoying it,” he said. “It’s also great to see S.C. State part of the expo.”

Expo co-founder Jody Martin said it took a great team of everyone coming together for the event working 10 months out of the year to organize.

“This event offers a variety of everything for farmers,” Martin said. “If you have an interest in farming ... then you get to connect with all of these exhibitors and agriculture community. You get to go to an educational session where we have 45 speakers and all kind of educational sessions ranging from row crops to forestry to hemp. There are a lot of things happening and a lot farmers can learn.”

Martin said Clemson and S.C. State along with N.C. State have been involved with the expo.

“We involve a lot of people,” he said. “This is all about everybody that is involved in agriculture in South Carolina and beyond being a part of helping work together. We have to collaborate together to have a great success, and that is what this event has been able to do.”

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