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ACRE program awards funding to 7 S.C. entrepreneurs

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Seven entrepreneurial businesses ranging from a meat delivery service to a Gullah farm cooperative have received funding from the S.C. Department of Agriculture’s Agribusiness Center for Research and Entrepreneurship program.

Ten finalists pitched business plans to a panel of ACRE judges and were also evaluated on a video presentation and demonstrated history of business success, according to a news release from the S.C. Department of Agriculture. The honorees represent six S.C. counties.

ACRE’s fourth year of funding distribution included the program’s first farming cooperative, first beef and pork agribusiness, first regenerative agricultural farm and first U.S. Department of Agriculture-certified organic farm, according to the release.

“Headed into our fourth year, we now feel like we are cemented in South Carolina’s agriculture industry and in an even better position to help these agribusinesses grow and thrive,” ACRE Executive Director Kyle Player said in the release.

The funding recipients are:

  • Bravo Steaks is run by husband-and-wife duo John and Emily Barnes in Chester County. The business ships individually packaged boxes of frozen beef and pork products as gifts and through a subscription service directly to consumers nationwide through their website.
  • Crescent Farm, a woman-owned, USDA-certified organic vegetable farm in Laurens County, sells carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash and kale to in-state food hubs Swamp Rabbit Cafe and Grocery and GrowFood Carolina. The farm plans to develop new field space on 47 acres of recently acquired land.
  • Milky Way Jersey Farm in Anderson County, a fourth-generation, family-owned dairy farm, sells raw milk and low-temperature pasteurized whole and chocolate milk. The business recently invested in a state-of-the-art creamery and a robotic milking parlor.
  • Queen & Comb increases environmental awareness about the ecological function of bees and provides education experiences through hands-on beekeeping with its Host-a-Hive program in Charleston County. Owner Tom Knaust and his team also harvest and bottle honey from customer hives and sell it wholesale.
  • The Gullah Farmers Cooperative Association is a collection of 17 Gullah farm operations in the Lowcountry that aims to facilitate the aggregation and wholesale distribution of produce to buyers such as the Beaufort County School system.
  • Pod Farms LLC in Pickens County creates hydroponic smart gardens for indoor use. The startup is selling beginner hydroponic kits including seed, nutrients and accessories while preparing a patent-pending vertical smart garden for beta testing.
  • Founder Jeff Siewicki raises pastured ducks at Vital Mission Farm, a regenerative farm in Charleston County, using a silvopasture system, which integrates grazing livestock operations with trees on the same land. Siewicki uses a portable netting system to rotate poultry and ensure daily access to fresh pasture.

“My hope for these seven entrepreneurs is that their innovative agribusinesses will help pave the way for continued development and transformation in South Carolina’s agriculture scene,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers. “Whether they take new approaches to existing industries or create new ones, these awardees all have the potential to stimulate economic development in our state.”

A 2020 study by University of South Carolina economist Joey Von Nessen for the S.C. Department of Agriculture found that agribusiness has a $46.2 billion annual economic impact on the state.

Reach Melinda Waldrop at 803-726-7542.

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