Trace Your Roots
Rooted in local keeps South Carolina growing
Have you noticed all the excitement about tracing your roots lately? More and more people are tracing their ancestry thanks to marketing campaigns that pose the enticing question, “Wouldn’t you like to know where you came from?”
South Carolinians take their roots and heritage pretty seriously, and my guess is that many of us probably know plenty about our family roots thanks to stories that have been handed down for generations. One thing I know for sure is that folks in our state are becoming very interested in the roots of their food, and South Carolina’s health and prosperity are better for it.
We all know that eating locally grown food is both better tasting and better for us. We know that eating local is a priority for many South Carolinians, and that seeking out local food is becoming the norm, not the exception. Farm to school, farm to table, farm to most anything are practically household terms.
Did you know that agribusiness is the largest industry in our state, with an annual economic impact of $42 million? There’s no denying the important role agribusiness plays in South Carolina’s economic development landscape. But before we get too caught up in the numbers—exciting as they are—let’s trace the roots of this growing industry.
We talk about the agribusiness “industry,” but what we’re really talking about is people. South Carolinians. Hardworking men and women who are passionate about what they do, how they do it and where they do it. Farmers are the roots of our delicious food and of our agribusiness economy.
The South Carolina Department of Agriculture decided that it was time to shine some light on these individuals with a new campaign we call “Roots of Your Food.” This campaign has its own roots in our Certified South Carolina Grown brand, which we launched 10 years ago. Since then, I bet you’ve seen our logo on produce trucks, in grocery stores and at roadside markets. I hope you’ve also seen our Fresh on the Menu logo at restaurants throughout the state, which indicates that minimum of 25% of the food served in these restaurants is locally produced.
A decade later, we knew that encouraging South Carolinians to trace the roots of their food to the farmers who grew it was the logical next step in our promotion of agriculture. Late last year, we kicked off a promotional campaign featuring 10 South Carolina farmers. The Roots campaign highlights our farmers’ passion for the work they do.
Many of the individuals in our Roots campaign represent the new generation of farmers. Some are young farmers, and some are young in their farming careers. One turned his experience in software programming into a career in hydroponic farming, while another carries on the legacy of an established family farm. They all have a passion, and they all understand the value of a hard day’s work.
I understand these farmers’ stories because I lived them. As a former dairy farmer from Bowman who grew up on the family farm, I know what it means to work around the clock, no matter what day of the week or what time of the year. I understand that passion is absolutely necessary, or else there’s no way a farmer would do what he or she has to do every day—or night. My wife, Blanche, and I can recall nights spent in a pasture waiting for a cow to go into labor, in order to help it have a healthy newborn calf. Blanche also grew up on her family’s farm, a peach farm in Spartanburg County.
If I turn my own calendar back, I can remember how exciting it was when “modern technology” made its way to our farm, or specifically, to our tractors. Getting our first tractor with an air-conditioned cab and a radio was a big deal. But when the headlights for tractors came along later, I knew that the end of a day might come long after the sun had gone down.
I still get excited about technology and innovation, and there’s plenty of both in agriculture. At the Department of Agriculture, we want to encourage and nurture individuals and businesses with new ideas that could strengthen our agribusiness industry. Each of us has a part to play when it comes to expanding agriculture and agribusiness in South Carolina. One of the best—and most delicious—ways is to buy and eat Certified South Carolina Grown food. At the end of the day, a driving force at the department is to strengthen South Carolina’s farm economy. And at the root of our farm economy are our dedicated farmers and their families.
I’ll leave you with some words of inspiration from one of our Roots television spots and hope you’ll visit certifiedscgrown.com/farmers to learn more about this campaign and the farmers who made it possible.
When was the last time you traced your roots? Not your family’s roots; the roots of the food you eat. Those roots should run deep. Farmers from every corner of our state are carrying on the traditions of bringing locally grown food to your table. So, choose food that’s rooted right here. Choose Certified SC Grown…It’s a Matter of Taste.
Story by Hugh Weathers, Commissioner of South Carolina Department of Agriculture