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Kershaw County, S.C., ranks best for farm profit

Best Places to Farm: The Belger family credits Extension support and a strong agriculture business destination for their farm’s generational success.

Pam Caraway, Farm Futures executive editor

May 17, 2024

3 Min Read
Farm family posed in front of old mill building
TEAMWORK: Wayne and Alice Belger with daughter Allie gather with Ryan Bean from Clemson Extension and Allie’s boyfriend, Roger Bruce, at the old mill once run by the Boykins, Alice’s ancestors. They all credit location and a team mentality to Kershaw County’s success.Pam Caraway

Editor's note: Farm Futures’ exclusive Best Places to Farm report ranks the financial performance of 3,056 counties. By analyzing proprietary data and the recently released results from USDA’s 2022 Census of Agriculture, Farm Futures averaged weighted ranks of the ratios on return on assets, profit margins and asset turnover for each county. How does your county rank? Visit the interactive map to check the ranking of 3,056 counties and browse other stats.

Wayne Belger greets guests on a back porch sheltered between the dining room and the kitchen of the Mill Pond Restaurant. The restaurant sits on the edge of the Boykin Mill Pond where wife Alice’s ancestors floated cotton bales to an island to hide them from Union soldiers during the Civil War.

The ancestors then drained the pond to thwart efforts to reach the island. But they didn’t drain the creek where they sank bottles of rum, the other source of their post-war working capital.

Like his ancestral in-laws, Belger is forward-thinking and persistent, according to his daughter, Allie, and her boyfriend, Roger Bruce.

And the Belgers say they’re not surprised that Kershaw County, S.C., ranked No. 1 of 3,056 counties in Farm Futures’ list of Best Places to Farm. Delighted, but not surprised.

Related:Where are the best places to farm in U.S.?

Kershaw County, South Carolina, Best Places to Farm statistics presented in a table

“We are in a good location,” Alice says.

“But it’s not just one thing. We have a team,” Wayne says.

“Agriculture has support and foresight,” Allie adds.

Extension support

One area of support comes from Clemson Cooperative Extension, Wayne says, as he nods toward Ryan Bean, fleet manager and research associate for Clemson’s Sandhill Research and Education Center.

“Clemson has Extension service in every county,” Wayne says. “Anybody can come in and get professional help. Clemson does that excellent job of teaching farmers and the public about how to be good stewards of the land.” 

And while Alice’s ancestors might have drained the pond, the ag community now focuses on building bridges and flagging down economic ships.

“It doesn’t just happen that a feed mill locates in a community. You’ve got to get out and ask for it,” Wayne says.

He often takes care of business while dining at the restaurant. His listeners are reminded of seeing him speak to a state representative at the restaurant the night before. And then take a school administrator aside to talk about a tax proposal.

That’s how this low-country county on the north side of Columbia, S.C., builds a return on asset that tops the chart.

Applying a performance metric to 2022 Ag Census data, Kershaw County showed a return on assets of 37% and a 53% profit margin. For context, Keweenaw County, Mich. — near the bottom of the ranking at No. 3,050 — showed a negative return on assets and a negative profit margin.

Related:Farm profit: New data reveals regional differences

That’s the difference between farming into the next generation and farming equity.

Learn more about Farm Futures' Best Places to Farm study and view the interactive map to see where your county ranks.

2022, 2017 and 2012 Best Places to Farm maps

About the Author(s)

Pam Caraway

Farm Futures executive editor

Pam Caraway became executive editor of Farm Futures in 2024. She has amassed a career in ag communications, including leadership roles in editorial, marketing and public relations. No stranger to the Farm Progress editorial team, she has served as editor of former publications Florida Farmer and Southern Farmer, and as a senior staff writer at Delta Farm Press.

She started her writing career at Northwest Florida Daily News in Fort Walton Beach. She also worked on agrochemical accounts at agencies Bader Rutter and Rhea + Kaiser.

Caraway says working as an ag communications professional is the closest she can get to farming – and still earn a paycheck. She’s been rewarded for that passion and drive with multiple writing and marketing awards, most notably: master writer from the Agricultural Communicators Network, a Plant Pathology Journalism Award from the American Phytopathological Society, and the Reuben Brigham Award from the Association for Communication Excellence.

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