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Agriculture-Focused Women Grow South Carolina Communities
March 8, 2021

Agriculture-Focused Women Grow South Carolina Communities

by The CE Shop Team

Growing a Future for Women in South Carolina Agriculture

Food is one of life’s greatest pleasures, but all too often we fail to think about where it comes from, the communities that produce it, and the real estate involved in that whole process. Well, one group of Black women in South Carolina have thought significantly about agriculture in America, and they’re taking the industry on. Their organization, FarmaSis is running a small farm along with Clemson University to help generate interest and inspire women to get involved in agriculture — an industry where women, especially Black women, are significantly underrepresented.

Women in Agriculture

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, women make up 29% of South Carolina farmers. Of South Carolina’s 4.7 million acres of farmland, women farm 1,245,006 acres (around 26%) and have a $150 million impact on the state economy. Black farmers, meanwhile, represent just under 7% of the 38,970 total producers in the state as of 2017.

“We have three goals. Number one, to work collectively as Black women – being a model to show everyone that women can work together. Number two is health and wellness and intentionally getting back to nature. And number three is economic growth,” Bonita Clemons, who founded the group in 2016, told the South Carolina Department of Agriculture.

The Real Estate Hurdle of Becoming a Farmer

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Like a lot of businesses, real estate is essential to initiating a successful agricultural venture. Yet the price of farmland has been on the rise, making the barrier to entry even higher for aspiring farmers. For the past 20 years, the value of South Carolina’s farmland has risen at a steady 3.9% per year. Today, the average cost for an acre of land in the Palmetto State will run you roughly $2,830.

The problem? Farmers need a lot of land to be profitable. An article in Successful Farming suggests that 500 acres are necessary to run a profitable operation. In South Carolina, that would run an aspiring farmer $1,415,000 before equipment, building construction, and the cost of seed or livestock. Of course, there are ways to turn profits on smaller farms which might make it a lucrative side hustle, which may appeal to some of your clients - though those looking to make their living off the land will need significantly more space.

Despite this barrier to entry, hopes are still high for FarmaSis. “I think [FarmaSis is] in the right direction of taking a lot of stuff that they learn back to their communities where they live,” Cody Bishop, who has experience managing farm incubator programs, told The Post and Courier.

Regardless, farming is more than a business. It’s a lifestyle, a community, and a passion that brings people together over food. Organizations like FarmaSis offer women a taste, figuratively and literally, of the agriculture industry with the hope to inspire others to join. With that said, if you have a client or friend looking to get started in farming, the South Carolina Women's Agricultural Network and South Carolina Department of Agriculture offer a wealth of resources, including grants, to women and minority farmers. Now that’s one way we can all grow together!

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