CHARLESTON — Getting South Carolinians to spend just $5 more a week on local farm products would generate an additional $1.2 billion for the state’s small farms, according to a new report commissioned by the state Agriculture Department.
The 164-page report released Thursday, “Making Small Farms Into Big Business,” provides suggestions for expanding the role small farms play in providing food for instate markets. It noted that while South Carolinians spend $11 billion on food each year, more than 90 percent of that money goes for food products produced outside the state.
The report was compiled by the Crossroads Resource Center – which has done similar analyses of food production in other states – working with farm, conservation and business groups from across South Carolina.
One suggestion was that the state should undertake a marketing campaign similar to one in Colorado in which people would be urged to eat five fruits and vegetables a day, as well purchase $5 a week in products produced by South Carolina farmers.
“The potential impact if every South Carolina resident purchased $5 of food each week directly from a farmer in the state would be about $1.2 billion,” the study concluded.
Another recommendation was that farmers collaborate by sharing production infrastructure such as buildings where products can be washed and sorted for sale or where products can be stored. The report suggested establishing 15 to 20 such associations around the state.
It also suggested that the state establish three food hubs – businesses that handle the gathering, distribution and marketing of locally grown products. Currently, GrowFood Carolina, based in Charleston, is the only such hub.
“We can expand market opportunities for farmers across the state by developing a strategic plan based on the recommendations found in this report,” Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers said in a statement released with the report. “As more consumers buy local, we need to not only meet that demand, but we must also capitalize on it.”
More than 150 farmers, business people and political leaders were interviewed for the report.