New agriculture initiative helps farmers grow their business


POMARIA, SC (WSPA)- Agriculture is the state’s largest industry. There are more than 25,000 farms in the state and the industry brings in $42 billion for the state. But it’s also a difficult industry to get into and sustain.

That’s why the SC Department of Agriculture started a new initiative aimed at helping farmers.

It’s called ACRE, The Agribusiness Center for Research and Entrepreneurship. The initiative helps those interested in the industry transform into budding farmers.

“I didn’t farm growing up. I have a business degree from South Carolina, but she sold me on it,” said Alicia Holbrook, owner of Carolina Pride Pastures. When Holbrook started the farm 7 years ago it was a dream come true.

Home to more than 2 dozen Alpacas and Llamas, Carolina Pride Pastures uses the wool from the animals to make retail products. The farm also offers educational tours.

Holbrook explained how the tours started. “We started looking at how we could help children and adults what you could harvest from the animal and turn it into several different things.”

It’s an area Holbrook has been able to grow with the help of the ACRE program. Last Fall, Holbrook had 400 students on this book. This year she has 1100 bookings. “They help you tweak those and see the reality behind it,” added Holbrook.

The Agribusiness Center for Research and Entrepreneurship is a collaboration between the SC Department of Agriculture and Clemson Extension Service.

“A lot of these folks that are starting these agribusinesses don’t have anywhere to go specific to agriculture. We’re really focused on helping these people get off the ground of taking their business to the next level,” said Kyle Player, the executive director of ACRE.

The program gives participants $5000 at the completion of a pitch-prep workshop. ACRE also has $125k to distribute to participants in the advanced program, which is aimed at farmers looking to expand in the industry.

Applications for the next session are due Oct. 1, 2019. Find it HERE.

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