Made in South Carolina
From the Low Country through the coastal plains to the rolling hills of the upstate, the specialty foods and products industry is exceeding all expectations in the Palmetto State.
by Becky Walton
What makes South Carolina specialty foods, beverages and other products so special? Our producers and processors, who pay close attention to the little details.
Specialty food producers provide raw farm products or processed products or both. Some grow and sell their own specialty food products that are derived directly from their farming operations. Others process and sell specialty products that are derived from raw farm products grown by others. Still others grow, process and sell their own specialty products for market.
While on-farm production is the basis for all food distribution, food processing provides the value-added component of agriculture and remains the nation's Number One manufacturing sector. Specialty food producers and processors are a valuable segment of the food industry.
Here are examples of what our state offers:
CHARLESTON CLAIMS the world-famous "Bubba Brand" for its own. It's offered by Atlantis Coastal Foods, operating on King Street. Atlantis, a producer of southern gourmet foods, features Bubba Q Sauce; Y'alsa (pronounced "ya'll-suh"), a hot sauce with a southern twist; and Black Bay Marinade with bourbon and peaches. There also are several little extras that Bubba-ize just about any dish. Atlantis offers Peppa Ketchup and Coastal Cocktail Sauce, among other items.
If Old World customs are more to your taste, the Charleston Tea Plantation may be your cup of tea. Located on the tiny barrier island of Wadmalaw, the plantation produces the only tea grown in North America. (See "Tastiest Tea in North America" in the Autumn 1993 issue of Sandlapper.)
Down the coast is the Hilton Head Island Popcorn Company. In 1989, JoAnn and Terry Green established their gourmet popcorn operation in Bluffton. They pop and flavor their corn on the premises and sell to grocery stores, catalog companies and specialty retail shops. The Greens also sell their popcorn in their own retail shop with decorative tins and gift baskets.
The strain of rice that once was the foundation of the coastal South Carolina economy is being grown in the Low Country once again. At Turnbridge Plantation in Jasper County, Dr. Richard Schulze, an eye surgeon, is growing Carolina Gold Rice, a pure strain of rice brought from Madagascar more than 300 years ago. (See "A Rice Revival at Turnbridge Plantation" in the Mid-Year 1992 issue of Sandlapper.)
MONTMORENCI VINEYARDS in Aiken County is owned and operated by the Robert E. Scott family, who have been in business since 1984. They grow all the grapes used in their wines, bottle their own products and sell to a wide market. (See "Vin" in the Winter 1993-94 issue of Sandlapper.)
Another specialty producer in the Aiken area is Fox Hunt Farms. Family-owned and operated by sisters Mary Webb and Drew Weeks, it has offices here and in Virginia. After years of requests from family and friends to "make that again," Fox Hunt Farms was formed to share a variety of delicious and unique gourmet foods, including the Sandwich Doctor sandwich spread, Cranberry Chutney and various sauces. The 300-recipe cookbook True Southern Family Recipes grew from the family's love of cooking and appreciation of fine foods.
For more than 90 years, Allen Brothers Mills, headquartered in Columbia, has been producing Adluh flour and corn meal products. (See "Adluh Produces the 'State Flour'" in the Winter 1994-95 issue of Sandlapper.) Its Columbia buildings are on the National Register of Historic Properties.
Young's Pecan Company in Florence, Preference Plantation in St. Matthews, Golden Kernel Pecan Company in Cameron and Orangeburg Pecan Company in Orangeburg are large commercial pecan operations. Whether you say "PE-kan" or "pih-KAHN," it's one of the few foods native to this country and one of South Carolina's favorite food products. Young's, by the way, serves Russell Stover Candy Company, whose Marion facility produces about 80,000 pounds of candy per day.
Manchester Farms in Sumter, the largest producer of farm-raised quail in the US, grows and processes almost 10 million quail per year. Valued as a low-fat alternative, quail has grown in popularity among health-conscious consumers.
Carolina Smoked Specialties in Mullins raises and processes gourmet smoked fish and seafood.
CRUSE VINEYARDS AND WINERY is located near Chester. (See "Vin," referenced above.) The operation was started by Ken and Susan Cruse in 1985 and has five acres of vineyards.
In Reidville is Granny Apple Associates, the largest Granny Apple operation on the East Coast. (See "What's Red, Delicious & Very Lucrative?" in the Autumn 1994 issue of Sandlapper.)
In the scenic foothills is a goat dairy, Split Creek Farm. Managed by Evin Evans, the Grade A dairy includes a milking and cheese operation, folk art studio, retail shop and kid nursery. Split Creek has won top medals in national competi-tions. (See "New Kid in the Barn" in the November/December 1990 issue of Sandlapper.)
Mountain Fresh Shitake Mushrooms is a 3-year-old company in Mountain Rest. Ed Burleson grows the Asian edible fungus in oak logs. His business began as a backyard hobby and has "mushroomed" into a profitable enterprise.
On the banks of Lake Greenwood is Blazer's, a classy restaurant owned and operated by James Britt. Specializing in fine seafood and wines, Britt has expanded the business to distribute a famous shrimp dip; production is 2,000 pounds per week. Blazer's Shrimp Dip is made from a secret recipe and sold in supermarket chains statewide.
Other cottage industries across the state produce everything from herbs to rare watermelons to lye soap to birdhouses. South Carolina's specialty products industry adds value to agriculture. Working together, SC food producers and processors successfully have created markets and a marketing climate from which they can benefit individually and collectively.
For details about finding and producing specialty foods, contact Sarah Fleming McLester, membership chairman of the South Carolina Specialty Food Producers Association, (803) 559-0383.
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