Agriculture is Business

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When people think of economic growth, the emphasis often focuses on technological breakthroughs, advancing manufacturing and creating jobs for the future.

These are all great ideas for discussion. However, the reality is that one of the largest areas of economic growth is often thought of as a business of the past.


Agriculture is a big business in South Carolina – contributing $41.7 billion annually to the state’s economy. That number includes 109,141 direct jobs, 212,530 total impacted jobs, 10.5 percent of South Carolina employment, and a result of $8.8 billion in labor income.

We are blessed to have a strong agriculture base in Oconee County. The Oconee Economic Alliance is striving constantly to promote the growth for the world of “AgriBusiness,” which is agriculture conducted on commercial principles, specifically using advanced technology.

According to the latest figures from the U.S. Census, Oconee County has 884 farms encompassing 67,871 acres, with an average farm size of 77 acres and a median farm size of 33 acres. The average value of machinery and building on farms is more than $450,000.

The market value of products sold by Oconee farms was more than $121 million. Total farm production expenses, which is money spent mainly at local businesses, was almost $106 million. The private and public investment in facilities is over $75 million. In addition, facility updates and replacements are a continuous revenue stream that is infused into the county’s economy.

That is a massive amount of positive economic impact in our community. The question now becomes: how to promote and continue to grow this economic base?  With the explosion of interest in locally grown products on a local and nationwide level, now is the time for Oconee County to take a leadership role to maximize this potential economic opportunity.

We have been blessed by the manufacturing surge in our area but let’s also commit to ensure our small businesses thrive and our agribusinesses flourish. I challenge you to shop local and to visit one of the farmer’s markets in our county this year as it will have an enormous ripple effect in our county.

Here in Oconee, our economy is much like a three-legged stool as it supported by manufacturing, tourism and agriculture. We must continue to focus on all three, as over time it will carve out a prosperous tomorrow for our community.


Richard K. Blackwell is the executive director of Oconee Economic Alliance, which is a public-private nonprofit effort to accelerate job creation and capital investment, increase per capita income, diversify the local tax base and generate awareness of Oconee County as a business location. To learn more visit

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