FLORENCE COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - The South Carolina Ag + Art Tour is in its sixth year throughout the state. It is a free self-guided farm and art tour that is a great way to educate people about where their food and fiber comes from, as well as introduce them to local artisans.
People in eleven different counties across the state have the chance to experience more than 80 agricultural sites and hundreds of artisans that will be at every farmer's market. The goal is to put food and product to a face and learn where your food comes from Fresh produce, honey, canned goods, fresh flowers and plants.
One vendor someone might not expect to see is the Southern Fields Soap Company. Katherine Barnette is the owner and is part of a family of four generations of farming. Family farms in Timmonsville and Nichols are how she created her all-natural soap company.
"We use all natural colorants for our coloring so every color you see is actually a plant. So the blood orange is actually beet root," Barnette added.
She is excited to have a permanent location for the Ag + Art tour for the first time and said it is a way to put a face to her product someone doesn't typically get. All the products have zero pesticides, are all organic and totally vegan. The Barnette family wants an understanding of agriculture and sustainability when people step into her booth.
"I said you know there has to be a way to make skin care products that's actually good for your skin and not going to dry it out, and when we started researching it, we found out the skin is one of the largest organs your body has, so it's really important to keep it hydrated," stated Barnette.
When competing with large chain retailers, Barnette explained how she and other farmers can have a hard time thriving. She said, "If we didn't have the Ag and Art tour it makes it hard for little companies like us to get our name out there."
Kimberly Brauss, Ag + Art Tour Chairman for Florence County said farming is a part of their heritage in Florence County.
"It's a big economic part of our industry and I think if you have more tourists understanding what is around in our area and it being a statewide initiative you start here and can go all around to the other counties over the next few weekends in June to find out all that South Carolina has to offer," said Brauss.
That's the main goal for Florence County, which is a part of the tour this year. Brauss recruited the Pee Dee State Farmers market, the Florence City center market, Green Acres Country market and the Columns to be included in the tour for the first time.
Brauss said, "When you go to the farmer's markets, you get to see the local products, but for the Ag and Art tour you get to see the faces with the products and get that connection."
"I really want people to know how many awesome farmers there and, there are a lot of us," Barnette added.
This year the tour will include farms, farmers markets, and artisans in Chester, Chesterfield, Darlington, Fairfield, Florence, Horry, Kershaw, Lancaster, Newberry, Union and York counties with different counties participating each weekend in June running on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.