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Carolina Gold: How rice re-created the South Carolina landscape

Posted 3/25/2013 8:28:00 AM

In recent years, South Carolina’s rice crop has gotten some attention as a gourmet grain much sought in upscale restaurants across the country. But, today’s production is just a shadow of the Carolina Gold crops of the early 19th century.

When someone along the coast was referred to as a planter, his primary crop was likely rice, and his success was based largely on the labor of slaves from the west coast of Africa where rice production methods were based on generations of experience.

You can learn more about the geography that led to the rise of rice in South Carolina and the ecological impact of that crop at dinner and a lecture in Beaufort at 5:30 p.m. Monday (March 25).

The program "South Carolina's Rice Fields: Understanding the Historical and Ecological Significance of a Landscape" at Beaufort’s Verdier House will feature Travis Folk, who has a Ph.D. in folk land management.

Folk is a biologist in his family's company. He is a professional land steward and manages several plantations located in South Carolina’s ACE Basin. He will talk about how the rice fields influenced land ownership and how that has, in turn, affected today’s efforts at preservation of large swaths of land, particularly those in the ACE Basin, which includes thousands of acres of public land surrounding the estuaries of the Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto rivers.

Folk also will discuss how the process of carving rice fields out of the bottomland hardwood forests helped create a habitat for game animals, song birds, reptiles and unique plant life.

The event is sponsored by the Historic Beaufort Foundation and is open to the public. Admission to the lecture is $25 per person or $30 per couple and dinner will be at Saltus River Grill at $19 per person. Reservations for the lecture can be made by calling (843) 379-3331. Call Saltus Grill for dinner reservations at (843) 379-3474.