Biscuits and gravy. Shrimp and grits. Agriculture and art. One of these things is not like the others, but that’s what makes it so much fun. The annual Ag + Art Tour (that’s Ag “and” Art—not plus) is a magical intersection of two traditions, each playing a distinct role in South Carolina’s unique culture. Every weekend in June, participating farms invite visitors to drop in and experience a slice of agricultural life. While that’s a definite draw, it’s the inclusion of local artists at work that creates the special environment that blends the best of both worlds into one irresistible event.
In 2012, volunteer groups from across the state led a grassroots effort to establish the agritourism event—one of the largest in the nation. Each year, thousands of South Carolinians and visitors escape the fast pace of daily life to converge upon these rural operations. With more than 4.5 million acres and 25,000 farms, South Carolina cites agriculture as its No. 1 business. Top commodities include poultry, cotton, corn, soybeans, cattle, peanuts, eggs, wheat and peaches, among others.
The journey of food from farm to fork is a story few people get the opportunity to learn about—and the tour aims to rectify that. Visitors can chat with farmers, observe operations, interact with farm animals, sample products and more. It is also a wonderful opportunity to explore local arts with painters, potters, weavers, musicians, quilters, sculptors, muralists, jewelry crafters, and artisan bakers giving demonstrations and offering their work for sale.
But at the heart of this family-focused event are free, self-guided tours that allow for interaction and support of local farmers and artists. While the two enterprises seem mutually exclusive, there is one way they are alike: both farmers and artists are cultivators, one nourishing the body through the production of agricultural goods, and the other, nourishing the mind and soul through artistic works.
Tours are scheduled by county and no two venues offer the same experience. Feasibly, you could hit them all and come away with a different understanding and appreciation for each. While there’s no admission fee, artists and vendors may charge for artwork, food, drinks, farm products and other goods offered for sale.
Bring a cooler if you wish to stock up on fresh meat, veggies and dairy goods—the offerings dependent upon the farm you visit. While it’s tempting to leash up your dog for this outing, resist the urge as visiting pets may pose a risk to farm animals and the farm environment.
A full list of farms, artists, dates and other info is posted just prior to the kick-off, so check the website for details and map out which venues you wish to visit.