Agritourism is booming. Its appeal this summer is evident: socialize outdoors, try something new, while supporting what’s hyperlocal. Visiting a farm, likely with friends, feels appropriate and on-trend. We used to go to farmers markets to connect with growers, now we go to their fields.
South Carolina is home to 463 registered agritourism farms, an astonishing metric. Thirteen joined the list in the past year, though many more farms participate in agritourism activities on their own. It’s a side hustle the agriculture industry has long dabbled in. But over a decade, visiting farms for entertainment has grown into dependent income, especially for specialty growers. Micro-farms offer a hip destination for a micro-sized get away, be it twenty minutes by car or a couple of hours.
“Over the past several years, we’ve seen more South Carolina farms diversifying their operations by expanding into agritourism,” says Eva Moore at the Department of Agriculture. “Farming can be an uncertain business, but agritourism helps round out some of the risks by adding new sources of income. It’s also an opportunity for farmers to share their passion for local food, hard work and the land.”
Sassafrass Flower Farm in Easley says a large portion of their income stems from agritourism. “If it’s heading to Saturday Market to buy flowers or coming to the field to pick flowers on date night, we’re a whole lotta fun,” says Sarah DuBose. “farm fresh flowers bring joy, if you buy them for yourself or give them to someone else, making your own local bouquet is something extra special.”
“Creating the farm experience” is how the South Carolina Department of Agriculture markets agritourism. It maintains a division for the endeavor called SC Agritourism (SCAA), which has its own website: scagritourism.org. “Farms aren’t just for food” is a moniker of the agency and a quick overview of SCAA’s purpose includes marketing activities beyond tours, tastings and pickings.
“During the pandemic, South Carolina agritourism has really found its moment. A lot of people felt safer outside and they wanted to connect to their community. U-pick farms and other agritourism activities offer a chance to do both.” – Eva Moore, SC Dept. of Agriculture
Agritourism today means bike trails, bird watching, photography classes, skeet shooting, disc golf, museums and reenactments, birthday parties, live music, farm dinners and the list goes on. If you can dream up what you’d like to do on a farm, there’s a farmer willing to invite you over, for a price. Hidden Pasture added ‘Unicorn Farm’ to their name last year, claiming to grow unicorns. Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers called it “innovative and entrepreneurial” on a recent podcast about agritourism, stating that he planned to take his grandchildren to see the “unicorns” at the specialty horse breeder in Fountain Inn.
Farms that participate in agritourism are incredibly interested in visitors seeing their property in new ways. Sure, you can hop on a tractor or horseback or hayride, but you can just as easily view fields of terrain by mountain bike, ATV, jeeps and zip lines. It’s fun, it’s fast and it’s profitable.
“During the pandemic, South Carolina agritourism has really found its moment,” says Moore. “A lot of people felt safer outside and they wanted to connect to their community. U-pick farms and other agritourism activities offer a chance to do both.”
An initiative from the Statehouse, in support of agritourism, funds highway right-of-way signage pointing to tourism and agritourism sites. It’s called the Tourism Oriented Directional Signage program or TODS (57-25-8 SC) and is a cooperative effort of the departments of transportation, parks/rec/tourism and agriculture. The application process ended in April for a round of agritourism highway signs.
Barefoot Acres Adventure Farm has applied for signage under the TODS program. Troy and Jody Prosser hope their agritourism destination, which opened to the public last summer in Fountain Inn, will qualify for the program. The campus is a mix of ropes courses and zip lines, produce, egg production and native gardens.
“The only advertising we can afford right now is social media,” Troy says. “When you see signs off a main state road, there’s no dollar value you can put on it. Sure, we hope people from Columbia and Asheville might see it but we want locals finding us too.”
There’s an agritourism destination for every interest in the Upstate, such as these seven within striking distance of Greenville. We’ve picked activities as diverse as mushroom foraging, flower picking, permaculture, zip-lining and cider tasting for your next day trip.
So, get out and play on the farm. You may even decide to leave the kids at home.
Sassafrass Flower Farm
20 minutes from Greenville
Sarah DuBose runs Sassafrass Flower Farm, just outside of Greenville, to support a burgeoning business as a supplier of local blooms and the booth she shares with her husband George at Saturday Market, Reedy River Farms. Last year she began u-pick events with themes for families, date nights, GNO and more. Private picks are available at times by reservation. Bring a picnic, and there’s often live music and food trucks.
Barefoot Acres Adventure Farm
30 mins from Greenville
Jody and Troy Prosser bought 52-acres outside of Simpsonville to create an ideal mix of land and air, Barefoot Acres Adventure Farm. Three sections of high ropes and ziplines traverse ¼ mile, followed by an 800 ft dual racing zipline. On ground, there’re gardens galore, for vegetables and native plants, a butterfly garden, chickens and ducks and a Carolina fence garden. Jody is a master gardener, and education is a big part of a farm visit here.
30 mins from Greenville
Popular farm tours resume June 17 at Mushroom Mountain, an eco-destination for the fungi loving. Workshops, classes and certifications occur too, along with beautiful trails and shopping for fruiting kits and gifts. Olga Katic and Tradd Cotter consider the farm a privately-owned research facility with 200+ species of fungi. Mushroom Mountain is a great destination for novice to experts ‘shroom hobbyists.
The Happy Berry
45 mins from Greenville
You may have picked blueberries or blackberries at The Happy Berry on the way to the lake, but The Berry Bunch, as they call themselves, have been busy planting additional varieties of seedless grapes, figs, persimmons and more muscadine. This past winter social media announced a u-pick in February and March for willow, yep cut your own pussywillow stems. Mulberries will be new this year too.
45 mins from Greenville
If you frequent Saturday Market, you have likely met Chris Sermons. Bio-way is a certified organic farm growing specialty and heirloom produce. Go to see the row crops, but also an edible forest garden. Scheduled tours include conversations about permaculture and sustainable agriculture. Make a reservation for the 440 square foot simple-living cabin; the kitchen can be pre-stocked with organic produce and eggs.
Windy Hill Orchard & Cidery
1 hour, 15 mins from Greenville
A cider bar at an orchard is enough for me to drive to Windy Hill, and the cider is delicious. The multi-generation, family-operated orchard is picturesque. There’re apples to pick once the season gets going in August and they fry fantastic apple cider donuts on-site. There’s fresh-pressed cider too. Check the website for summer cider bar hours. One of the original Certified SC Grown farms and farm stands, Windy Hill will convert you from WNC apples.
Titan Farms – Sara’s Fresh Market
1hr 45 mins from Greenville
Sara’s Fresh Market is a historic stop for peaches a bit southeast of Greenwood. The stand is beautiful, filled with produce, flowers, pickles, jam and fresh-made local peach ice cream, a labor-intensive tradition. In fact, the market sells all four of South Carolina’s officially designated foods: peaches, collard greens, milk and the State’s snack, boiled peanuts. Titan grows a massive amount of the peaches produced in SC and the pastoral drive is lovely from Greenville and back.
Our destination picks are available nearly year-round to the public, but there’s another farm that opens its fields for just a few weekends starting now. Twin Creeks Lavender in Williamston grows six varieties on 100-year-old farmland, and you can cut your own local lavender bundles at their annual u-pick. Learn more at twincreekslavender.com.
The State of Agribusiness in SC
Agribusiness is South Carolina’s largest industry, with a $46.2 billion annual impact on the state’s economy. “Agribusiness” is comprised of agriculture and forestry and the numbers are up $4.5 billion over five years. It accounts for nearly 250,000 jobs and $10 billion in labor income for SC.
Tourism, meanwhile, is the state’s second-largest industry and agritourism is the umbrella term used to combine the two. Interestingly, agritourism numbers have not be measured in a decade. The Department of Agriculture is interested in capturing data soon, as a state and by region. Much has changed in the sector, including the advent of stand-alone agritourism farms, so it will be of import to delineate these new subset initiatives.
Data provided by the communications office of the SC Department of Agriculture.