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SC State awarded $750,000 grant to cultivate beginning farmers in SC

SC State's 1890 Research & Extension program will assist disadvantaged farmers, ranchers and veterans with starting their own agriculture business in SC.

ORANGEBURG, S.C. — South Carolina State University (SCSU) has been awarded a $750,000 grant to help cultivate beginning farmers through its 1890 Research & Extension program

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant will allow the program to aid socially disadvantaged farmers, ranchers, veterans through peer-to-peer mentorship with local farmers.

The 1890 Research & Extension Program at SC State University conducts research to help address problems affecting state residents and offers lifelong learning opportunities through its many outreach programs. 

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With the assistance of the $750,000 USDA grant, SC State 1890 Extension’s sustainable agriculture and natural resources program will partner with three South Carolina agribusinesses to train and educate farmers in various areas such as alternative crops, livestock and natural resources. The strategic alliances will assist farmers, ranchers and veterans who are beginning to engage into various ag enterprises. 

According to Dr. Joshua Idassi, state program leader for SC State Extension sustainable agriculture and natural resources, lack of resources and understanding of business operations is often what prevents beginning agricultural businesses from being successful. He hopes that by working with experienced farmers, aspiring ag entrepreneurs will build relations that will expose them to vital information through peer-to-peer mentorship. 

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“Farming is a business, and collaboration is key to entrepreneurship,” Idassi said. “A lack of knowledge can make operating a business seem intimidating. With these peer-to-peer partnerships, we can eliminate the educational barrier by providing hands-on technical training and classroom instruction in a friendly way from farmer to farmer.” 

By collaborating with Morning Glory Homestead Farms (St. Helena Island), National Veterans Agriculture Association (Gray Court) and Help for Landowners (Society Hill), farmers who are seeking novel land-use options will receive vital information in the following areas: agronomic practices, entrepreneurship education, niche market development and direct marketing strategies, land acquisition arrangements, including farm succession plan development, financial risk management, farm safety and agri-ability resources identification and the development of sustainable housing and community environment modules. 

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“SC State 1890 has supported us since the beginning of our business, so we are pleased to give our support,” said Tony Jones, CEO of Morning Glory Homestead Farms. “As a family-owned farm, we understand the struggles of just starting out. By serving as mentors, we are able to assist the next generation of farmers by educating them on basic crop production, marketing and food safety.” 

The technical training and outreach programs offered through the grant are expected to begin Oct.1 to qualifying agricultural entrepreneurs. 

By incorporating its Gullah tradition, Morning Glory Homestead Farms will provide outreach and assistance through an incubator program to enhance the sustainability of beginning farmers, ranchers and veterans in South Carolina. 

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Help for Landowners will conduct drone flights and gather imagery and data to analyze potential land use options. 

National Veteran Agriculture Association will provide veteran farmers with high tunnels to assist with growing plants year-round.  

Developments are also underway to assist landowners with heirs’ property issues and legal services.  

“Farming is a community-based business which powers a nearly $40 billion agriculture industry in the state of South Carolina," said Dr. Louis Whitesides, vice president and executive director of SC State 1890 Research & Extension. "The funding through this grant will allow us to educate and train local farmers and provide them access to invaluable resources that are required to start and maintain a thriving business.”  

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The three-year Beginning Farmers, Ranchers and Veterans grant, awarded by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), supports efforts that introduce, train and educate aspiring farmers on best practices to sustain a profitable business. 

For more information about the programs offered to assist small farmers, contact Dr. Joshua Idassi, state program leader for sustainable agriculture and natural resources, at jidassi@scsu.edu.  

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