Published: April 13, 2011
FLORENCE — Locating a “U-pick,” farm stand, corn maze or pumpkin patch in the Pee Dee region is just a few clicks away now thanks to an online resource launched by Clemson University.
The Pee Dee AgriTourism Passport incorporates Google Maps to enable residents and visitors locate on-farm lodging, produce stands and other agriculture-related businesses.
The website divides an array of businesses into easy to follow categories, including wineries, seafood, Christmas tree vendors and museums.
Users of the site can see the businesses on a map and click locations to access the vendors’ websites. A printed version of the map that folds to the size of a passport will be available at area chambers of commerce, convention and visitor bureaus and welcome centers.
Visit the Pee Dee AgriTourism Passport website at www.peedeeagritourism.org.
Agritourism is a farm enterprise operated for the enjoyment and education of the public that also may generate income by promoting farm products and experiences. Typically, they are rural enterprises that incorporate a working farm and a commercial tourism component.
Agritourism also can include anything that connects consumers with the heritage, natural resources or culinary experiences unique to the agricultural industry.
Blake Lanford, an Horry County Extension agent with the Clemson Institute for Economic and Community Development who developed the Pee Dee program, said the AgriTourism Passport is an innovative tool that connects businesses with the public and creates a network in the industry.
The program is integrated with S.C. MarketMaker, a program managed by Clemson that leverages this resource and facilitates development of similar websites in other tourism regions of South Carolina. Launched two years ago, it helps the agriculture and seafood industries reach new markets.
MarketMaker and the AgriTourism Passport were developed as a means of sharing information about food- and farm-based businesses with the public, said R. David Lamie, Extension specialist at the Clemson Institute for Economic and Community Development, who is leading the MarketMaker project in South Carolina.
The programs connect all elements of the food chain — from farmers and fishermen to processors and distributors — so they can more efficiently conduct business. If a chef wants to buy local shrimp, MarketMaker can help make the connections.
By collaborating with the MarketMaker platform, similar versions of the AgriTourism Passport developed by Clemson could be adopted by the other states that have statewide MarketMaker websites. Many of the innovations created in South Carolina already have been adopted, giving other states the capacity to better work with the seafood industry and agritourism enterprises.
The AgriTourism Passport also provides the opportunity for collaboration with state and regional tourism and agriculture-related agencies to help broaden the program’s reach statewide, and was developed with that goal, Lamie said.
“The end-game is to boost agritourism in South Carolina and help local farm-based businesses prosper,” Lamie said.
The AgriTourism Passport program was funded by U.S. Department of Agriculture-Rural Development grant RBEG Loan #005 46-039-576000254 in partnership with the Clemson Institute for Economic and Community Development and the national MarketMaker program at the University of Illinois.