Until the middle of the 20th century, people often ate what they grew in their gardens or what was grown or raised on local farms. That changed with scientific innovations, transportation and corporate expectations.
Today, however, many people are getting back to their roots and supporting local businesses and farms, with the added bonus of eating healthier.
Back to the farm
One such place getting local support is Three Sisters Farm in Bluffton, which is operated by sisters Mary Connor, Priscilla Coleman and Beth Lee. The farm has been in their family since 1821, when surveyor James Porcher purchased the tract.
“It passed from him to his daughter Daisy and her husband, Eustace Bellinger Pinckney,” said Mary Connor. Then it went to “my grandfather and to his daughter, Mary O., and her husband Ed Merrick. Then to my parents, who operated it as a dairy farm in the mid-1960s, when the government offered buyouts for dairy farmers,” she said. “My brothers were away at school and labor was hard to find, so my parents took advantage of the buyout and began to rent the land.”
From the late 1960s until about 20 years ago, renters planted acres of daffodils for commercial markets at the farm.
About 15 years ago, Connor suggested to her mother that they resurrect the fields for a “pick your own” daffodil farm. “My mother enjoys sharing the farm’s peace and quiet with people who seldom get this experience,” she said.
The daffodil farm took off and is now a local springtime tradition for many people.
The operation’s popularity encouraged Connor and her sisters to grow and sell vegetables. “Since we were going to eat from this farm ourselves, we decided on organic methods, which was after all, how everyone farmed before World War II .”
The sisters — one is a civil engineer, one is an adjunct professor of art and one is a bookkeeper — had a lot to learn about organic farming. With the advice and help of groups like Coastal Organic Growers, they learned. “Our farm is certified organic by the USDA, a lengthy, expensive process. We’re very proud of earning it,” said Connor.
The sisters now sell their vegetables to customers who purchase a weekly or bi-weekly service at the Bluffton and Port Royal farmers markets, and to local restaurants. They also still sell flowers; sunflowers are their most popular items.
Many local restaurants are also buying locally-grown fresh produce at farmers markets and from farms like Three Sisters.
“Three Sisters Farm has taken care of us for years,” said Shaun Bescos, chef at Alexander’s, which, along with Red Fish and The Old Oyster Factory, has promoted local produce on their menus for years.
Bescos, who grew up on a pig farm, designs his menu around local, seasonal items. Partner Robby Maroudas catches a variety of fish for the restaurants, including snapper, grouper and cobia. This year, the restaurant’s owners created their own garden, Bear’s Island Farm, near Colleton River Plantation.
Farmers markets, which have expanded in number, size and diversity of products, are open this summer and fall on Hilton Head, and in Bluffton, Ridgeland, Beaufort, Savannah and Charleston. Many accept EIB, senior coupons and WIC coupons.
At the Farmers Market of Bluffton, there’s live entertainment in addition to the vendors’ fare. The Hilton Head market was the “brainchild of Hilton Head’s Ed McCullough, host of Talk of the Town, and Diane Fornari. The market is now in its second year and growing in participation and support,” said market manager Deborah Boyd.
In addition to Three Sisters Farm products at the island farmers market, other vendors include organic producers Clark & Sons in Statesboro, Back to Nature in Ridgeland, Oak Tree Farm in southern Georgia and others.
“We have Spanish Wells seafood, local dairy products, flowers, plants, honey, baked goods and other delicious prepared food,” said Mc-Cullough. She also said a wellness tent features healthy products and information, and a kids’ area has educational entertainment.
Finding locally-grown products
Certified South Carolina, a cooperative effort among producers, retailers, wholesalers and the South Carolina Department of Agriculture helps consumers find and buy local products. The “Certified SC Grown” logo on stickers and signs signifies products grown in South Carolina. Additionally, processed items bearing the Certified SC Product logo must adhere to accepted industry standards.
SCDA Commissioner Hugh Weathers and his staff point out that all phases of the campaign have the same goal: to increase South Carolina’s per capita income through agriculture.
For more information on Certified South Carolina visit certifiedscgrown.com.