Tony Melton

I think my Daddy was a machinist/fixer/farmer stuck in an illusionist’s body because he loved astounding folks. He was always bringing home some new apparatus that he would magically change behind his back to astound and widen the eyes of all nine of us kids.

I especially remember the “coin in the three concentric boxes trick” where he would take the coin you gave him and it would magically end up in the center of three sealed boxes.

Next, I remember the time when Sonoco, the company where he worked what we called his day job, received a package from Germany containing what they called the world’s smallest drill bit — he simply drilled a hole through the center of it and sent it back. Astounding.

People from all around McBee would bring him small engines, tools and machines that he would astoundingly fix and make as good as new.

Finally, he would always astound all as a farmer by producing a decent crop on some of the poorest, sorriest, and driest soil in the world — the sands of McBee.

If I asked most people in the Pee Dee “What is the No. 1 industry in South Carolina?” they would probably say tourism. They would probably be astounded that it is actually agribusiness, especially since all the TV stations have deserted Florence for the tourism dollars at the beach and regularly preach the benefits of tourism.

We still appreciate and love those tourism dollars, but even though it is a tough business, agribusiness (farming) is still the No. 1 industry in South Carolina. However, today with low commodity prices all farmers must be somewhat illusionists to show a profit. As any farmer will tell you, everyone who has anything to do with farming must be a machinist, fixer, builder, chemist, grower, and now illusionist.

Today, many farmers are searching for ways to diversify to get away from these low prices, but they need expertise, knowledge, wisdom, training, aces up their sleeves, entrepreneurship and blessings from heaven to be successful. In fact, “without blessings-from-heaven I don’t know where we all would be (maybe starving).”

Therefore, this Wednesday and Thursday at the S.C. Agribiz & Farm Expo at the Florence Center, we will have many classes on diversifying into vegetables, fruits, nuts, hemp, and forestry. The expo starts at 8 a.m. and continues until 4 p.m. both days. Admission is free, and anyone who has any interest in farming, questions about farming or wants to know what it takes to feed the world is welcome.

Last week, I saw a picture of Sonny Perdue, our U.S. commissioner of agriculture, holding a T-shirt with this definition of farming “The art of losing money while working 400 hours a month to feed people who think you are trying to kill them.”

Subscribe to Breaking News Alerts

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, disability, political beliefs, gender identity, marital or family status and is an equal opportunity employer. Persons who require alternative means of communication of program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) or who need special accommodations due to a disability in order to participate in this program, call 843-661-4800.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.