NEWBERRY COUNTY — The South Carolina Ag + Art Tour is a free, self-guided tour of farms and artists in which Chester, Chesterfield, Darlington, Fairfield, Horry, Kershaw, Lancaster, Union and York counties currently participate.
Newberry County might soon be added to that list if the efforts of the Newberry County Chamber of Commerce and Clemson Extension, which coordinates the tour, prove successful.
“This is the nation’s largest agriculture tour of this type,” said Michelle Long, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce.
Ben Boyles with Clemson Extension said the tours began in 2012 with York County. Since that first year, the tour has grown and spread across the state. Now they hold multiple tours throughout the month of June, on different weekends, where each county is highlighted.
Liz MacDonald, administrator with the Chamber, said the aim is to get all the counties in South Carolina involved with the tour.
“We are such an agricultural county, we really need to be involved in this, we really do,” she said.
Long said they came across the Ag + Art tour when the information was brought to them by a local farmer.
“This very large scale, agritourism has been growing for years and why not capitalize on the things you do well. The point is to put people on the site of a real working farm, and let them have that experience,” she said. “A lot of people do not get that experience and this gives them that experience, and also you incorporate the art into that.”
When the tour comes to Newberry, MacDonald said they will probably limit it to five venues, all in close proximity to each other. At each farm there will be an artist, which could involve paintings, sculptures, weaving or metal work.
Long and MacDonald said Fairfield County representatives said their tour brings in 2,000 to 3,000 people.
“Once we know when it is going to be, we will tell the retail stores and restaurants and we can tell them this is the weekend to expect a couple thousand people in town,” Long said.
According to Boyles, when a county joins the Ag + Art Tour, it pays a participation fee that goes to marketing outside the county with things like billboards and T-shirts. A leadership team set up within the county and members will be responsible for marketing within the county.
“Even though Clemson Extension provides the marketing part of it, we provide the information for that marketing. So when folks get the booklet (about the tour in the county) it will have the map of the farms, descriptions of the farms and that is really what drives the people,” Long said. “People are looking for something unique. They are wanting to see something a little bit unique.”
The booklets also will include information on the artists.
The Chamber has assembled a committee that includes local art experts and other professionals but MacDonald said they could use a few more committee members. Call the chamber at 276-4274 for more information.
The Chamber and the committee will spend the next year raising the funds to bring the tour to Newberry County. Long said other counties raise money typically through banks that work with farms as well as assistance from the county government and the school district.
When Newberry does become a stop, the Chamber plans to add a farm to table event that will be held the week before.
Reach Andrew Wigger at 803-276-0625 ext. 1867 or on Twitter @ TheNBOnews.