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GUEST COLUMN: Strengthening S.C. farms, together
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GUEST COLUMN: Strengthening S.C. farms, together

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From left, Marion Swink of McCall Farms, Pat Wechter of the USDA and Henry Swink of McCall Farms look out at a farm field.

South Carolina is home to some of the most efficient and productive farms in the world. Agribusiness is the largest economic sector in our state, with nearly 25,000 farms amounting to close to 5 million acres of land and 200,000 jobs.

As a land-grant institution, the Clemson University College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences must support statewide farmers by providing information and research that matters.

One of the most significant challenges facing our farmers is providing a consistent, affordable and secure food supply to meet the demands of a growing population. A new partnership with McCall Farms will allow Clemson to address these challenges and serve as a catalyst to strengthen farming operations by providing research, teaching and programs to support South Carolina’s leading industry.

By enhancing the college’s vegetable breeding program through a $3 million gift, establishing the McCall Farms Vegetable Breeding Endowment, we will expand our work and accelerate our pace addressing issues most critical to South Carolina’s farmers.

As part of our Advanced Plant Technology (APT) Program, the vegetable breeding program will use genomics-assisted breeding to develop enhanced vegetable varieties for production in the southern United States, including improved heat-tolerant and disease-resistant crops. While the APT Program is a statewide network of researchers addressing current and emerging plant breeding and genetics issues, much of the work supported by the McCall Farms Vegetable Breeding Endowment will take place at the Pee Dee Research and Education Center.

Partnerships with farmers and others within industry are critical to achieving impactful results that matter to those who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, communities and health. For more than a century, our faculty and researchers have built and established these types of relationships and delivered essential knowledge.

In some sense, we learn as much from producers as they learn from us, and they inform our work every day. When they tell us about real-world problems threatening crops, our teams provide research-based solutions to make a difference in their productivity. We are committed to continuing these efforts. As we develop new insights from the vegetable breeding program, we will share our findings with growers through our field days, Clemson Extension workshops and specialized newsletters.

We are proud to count McCall Farms as one of our partners. Their endowment shows their appreciation for the work we do and can do together – and it will undoubtedly strengthen our ability to support those of you we are fortunate enough to work with in the Pee Dee region.

Clemson is known for its academic excellence, world-class researchers and prowess in athletics, and it is my hope the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences is recognized within your community for our local engagement, responsiveness to the agribusiness sector and partnerships with farmers and foresters who feed, clothe and shelter the citizens of South Carolina, the nation and the world.

Keith Belli is the dean of the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences at Clemson University.

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