2 Sumter agribusinesses are awarded grants in ACRE Advanced Entrepreneurship program


Two Sumter agribusinesses were among 12 South Carolina businesses awarded grants by the South Carolina Department of Agriculture's Agribusiness Center for Research and Entrepreneurship (ACRE) as part of its Advanced Entrepreneurship program.

The finalists presented to a panel of judges on May 15 and were scored based on their business plans, a five-minute video and their demonstrated history of business success.

Included in the $200,000 that was awarded were Oswego Flowers and Bradford Farms, both of Sumter County. In addition to funding, the awardees will also receive access to a network of business advisors and professional assistance with further state and federal grant applications, according to a news release from SCDA.

Oswego Flowers, which focuses on growing unusual cut flower varieties, will use the grant to help purchase a larger greenhouse to extend the growing season of cut flowers to year-round production and begin shifting into wholesale production of cut flowers.

Bradford Farms, which grows, processes and markets its own heirloom crops and acts as a micro-distributor providing South Carolina-grown produce to restaurants in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, will use the grant money for mechanized wash stations, mechanical choppers and cold storage with forklift access.

Other grant recipients in the state are:

- Dragonfly Creek (Colleton County), a diversified market farm in Walterboro growing seasonal vegetables, herbs, fruits, cut flowers and chicken eggs. As they continue to grow, they plan to develop a weekly Community Supported Agriculture program for Walterboro-area residents. They plan to use ACRE funds to invest in wildlife fencing to protect their crops and drill another well to expand irrigation.

- Blue Ridge Rabbit Meat Co. is a family run rabbit farm in Wellford (Spartanburg County) that raises and processes rabbits, shipping the high-quality meat to customers across the country. The company plans to use ACRE funding to add heating and cooling systems throughout their barn.

- Crossroads Processing (Lexington County) was founded in Leesville in 2022 with a focus on deer processing but quickly expanded into processing different kinds of meat, including livestock, to address gaps in the local market. Their goals for the company are to increase direct-to-consumer processing, increase local meat processing infrastructure and to shrink the gap between farmers and consumers.

- Lowcountry Fungi is an indoor farm on Johns Island (Charleston County) supplying culinary and medicinal mushrooms to restaurants and wholesale customers. The company recently launched a "mushroom coffee" that blends local coffee with fungi grown on the farm. With the ACRE grant, they plan to expand into another warehouse unit to expand production and add a certified kitchen.

- Farm in the Wildwood (Greenville County) uses eco-friendly, no-till and regenerative agricultural methods to grow baby greens, herbs and various vegetables for customers including restaurants in the Greenville area, CSA members and a seasonal farmstand, as well as agritourism offerings. With the ACRE grant, they intend to make facility improvements, improve marketing and expand their product offerings.

- The Pickled Pepper People (Greenville County) makes spicy slaw from fresh vegetables that are locally and sustainably sourced, using a traditional Haitian family recipe. This minority-owned business will use the ACRE grant money for equipment, marketing and social media, and shared kitchen expenses.

- Growing Green Family Farms (Greenville County) supplies fresh produce to the Upstate region, using regenerative agricultural practices through compost and interplanting. They aim to expand their Good Agricultural Practices-certified packing shed and walk-in cooler, with which they can increase their own production and support other farmers in need of a food safety-certified space.

- After taking over a pecan farm from their parents, the younger generation of Yon Family Farms quickly increased yield through improvements to irrigation and equipment. They operate a retail store in Ridge Spring (Saluda County) that sells pecans and pecan products while also supporting other local farms by selling local goods from producers across South Carolina. Yon will construct a new permanent freezer space to improve access and inventory management.

- Heartworks Farm (Lexington County) is a specialty crop farm producing tomatoes, microgreens and cut flowers. They intend to build on a multi-functional packing and processing building with a dedicated processing area, cold storage and a flexible space for educational workshops and farm events.

- Hull and Husk (Beaufort County) uses locally sourced peanut shells, pecan shells, white oak and coffee grounds to produce pellets for wood-burning grills and animal feed. With the help of the ACRE grant, they intend to buy packaging equipment, an air purification system and a drum dryer for materials used in pellet production.

"Every year, I'm so impressed by the creativity, drive and diversity of the entrepreneurs who compete as part of the ACRE Advanced Entrepreneurship program," said ACRE Executive Director Kyle Player in the release.

ACRE was founded in 2018 to help identify and nurture new ideas and businesses in the Palmetto State's agribusiness sector. ACRE also partners with Clemson Extension to offer a fall curriculum program to train and mentor beginning agricultural entrepreneurs and prepare them to seek advanced award funding. To learn more, visit acre-sc.com.