Sponsor Top Image2-01.png

Fruit & Vegetable Track


Wednesday, January 23, 2019

12:30 PM - 1:45 PM

Lunch ‘n Learn: Online Marketing… What you Thought You Knew  

South Carolina’s Annie’s Project and the New and Beginning Farmer Program Alumni will have the opportunity to network together and listen to one of their own, Jan Nirri, present “Online Marketing…what you thought you knew”. Grab your lunch (Cost $10.00) and then join us for an engaging and informative Lunch ‘n Learn.

There are literally thousands of ways to market your business online these days, but what are the best ways for YOUR business and how can you get the most out of those methods? Online authority, presence, and engagement…. Do you have it?

Jan N.jpg

Jan Nirri, Success Factor Consultants

A long-time supporter and advocate for small businesses and farms, Jan Nirri, an Annie’s Project and SCNBFP Alumni, is very passionate about all agriculture but especially Regenerative/Restorative practices.

As part of the inaugural Annie’s Project Educational Retreat  (May 2012) Jan began her serious journey into agriculture with a vision for reconnecting people (especially kids) and farms. She completed the SCNBFP in 2013, interned on a local chicken farm (Wil-Moore Farm) and moved to NC that Fall to work full time on a grass-fed beef farm. Jan has worked on a number of farms since that time ending up near Lynchburg, VA.

In 2017, while still pursuing her farm vision, Jan saw there was a great need for the community businesses to engage better with their customers online. With a Computer Programming degree, career in large computer systems, and more recent experience in online marketing and websites, Jan decided to use her background to help local businesses and farmers. She also saw the need for people to have access to solid and affordable legal services. So, Success Factor Consultants was founded providing legal services plans through LegalShield, and offering Website development and many online marketing services.

12:30 PM - 1:30 PM

Lunch ‘n Learn: Controlled Environmental Agriculture

The South Carolina Department of Agriculture recognizes that High Tech “Controlled Environment Agriculture” is changing the farming landscape worldwide.  Join an open discussion with business consultants who analyzed the impact this new style of “growing” might have in South Carolina and how you and CEA can reduce SC’s dependence on IMPORTED produce. Grab your lunch (Cost $10.00) and then join us for an engaging and informative Lunch ‘n Learn.

Dave Kowert.png

Dave Kowert, NextTrack Consulting, President

Dave Kowert is a Senior Level Business Consultant who focuses on corporate strategic planning and project leadership.

His client list includes numerous Fortune 500 companies including: Disney, Anheiser Bush, Compaq, Hunt Transportation, and major international organizations like The BBC, The United Nations, and The European Union.  In addition to “ C“ level consulting, Mr. Kowert has led large strategic corporate initiatives in the entertainment industry, investment banking, technology development, homebuilding, and real estate development. Mr. Kowert’s company Next Tack Consulting was engaged to lead the State of South Carolina’s research effort into the viability of Controlled Environment Agriculture for South Carolina.  He and four other experienced consultants completed that project and delivered the full report to The State (through PABC) earlier this summer.


Thomas McNeil, NextTrack Consulting
Tom McNeil is the quintessential entrepreneur.  An experienced venture capitalist, Tom has spent decades founding, funding, and growing businesses with high growth potential.  His forte is developing business with intersecting differential technologies that appeal to rapidly expanding new markets, and cultivating businesses that focus on environmentally sustainable initiatives. While his portfolio of business interests is primarily North American, he has holdings in South America and Africa as well.  Controlled Environment Agriculture, with its focus on technology and delivering high yield, pesticide free, produce in a sustainable fashion attracted Tom's attention several years ago, and he has been an outspoken advocate of advanced agribusiness ever since.  Tom offices in Charleston, lives in Colleton County, and is active in the timber farming industry.  He recently founded EATSco (Exceptional Agribusiness Technology and Systems Company) for the sole purpose of expanding commercial CEA opportunities in South Carolina.

2:00 PM - 2:45 PM

Accessing Markets to Maximize the Potential of your Farm

This presentation will discuss the importance of understanding the different market possibilities that may be available to a grower, and choosing a path to meets the goals of the grower.

William McLean.png

Bruce McLean, NC State, NC Cooperative Extension

I am 45 years old. Married to Teresa (for 18+ years) with two daughters, Whitney (age 14) and Georgianna (age 8). I have been employed with NC Cooperative Extension - Bladen County Center since May 2013. I am the Field Crops and Commercial Horticulture Agent for Bladen County. Crops that we have in the county are: (field crops) corn, soybeans, cotton, peanuts, small grains, tobacco, (some) rice, and (some) grain peas; (hort crops) blueberries (#1 in NC), muscadines (#1 in NC), other small fruits, tree fruits, vegetable crops, nut crops.  

Along with working with Extension, I farm primarily growing fruit - blueberries, blackberries, peaches, pears, figs, some citrus, muscadines, and various experimental crops. Growing up, my family grew vegetables and had an aquaculture operation (catfish). I graduated from NC State in 2003 with a B.S. in Horticulture. After graduating from NC State, I opened a landscape business and an ornamental plant nursery, and operated it for a number of years. After that, I went back to farming - growing vegetables, until I went to NC Cooperative Extension.

2:50 PM - 3:30 PM

Surviving and Thriving 50 Years in the Produce Industry

Pesticide License Recertification Credits – 1

Tony Melton will share real-world practical knowledge, he has gained working in the vegetable industry for fifty years – knowledge necessary to begin and operate a vegetable/fruit farm. His topics will include operation of a vegetable/fruit farm, equipment (irrigation, tractors, implements, harvesting equipment, safety, etc.), production planning, marketing, pesticide use/weed control/safety, and budgeting.

Tony Melton2.JPG

Tony Melton, Clemson Extension, Senior County Extension Agent

Tony Melton has been serving the Vegetable Growers of the Pee Dee and around SC for over 30 years.  Many know of him as the Vegetable Guru because of his vast knowledge. Tony also has played a vital role in the expansion of produce production for McCall Farms expanding operation over the past years.  You will find Tony starting his days early with farm visits to mentor the grower’s request his professional assistance. Tony is also a household name around the Southeast as the co-host of "Making it Grow".

2:50 PM - 3:45 PM

Goat & Free-Range Chicken Farming

This presentation will focus on improving general management practices to ensure a successful small ruminant and backyard poultry operation.

Lee Van Vlake.JPG

Lee Van Vlake, Clemson University, Area Livestock & Forages Agent

Received his Bachelor's Degree in 2004 from Clemson University in Animal Science.  In 2012 he received his Masters Degree also from Clemson University in Agricultural Education.  He has worked for Clemson University for 13 years served as a Area Livestock and Forages in the Pee Dee Region.  


Amber Starnes – Clemson University, Area Livestock & Forages Agent

Received her Bachelor's Degree in 2008 from Coker College in Biology.  In 2010 she received her Masters Degree in Animal Science from the University of Arkansas.  She has worked for Clemson University for 6 years serving as Area Livestock and Forages Agent in the Pee Dee Region.

4:15 PM - 5:15 PM

ACRE – Interested in Getting Your Agribusiness to the Next Level?


This program will focus on Business Planning, Grants & Funding Options, Agribusiness Entrepreneurs-Great Opportunity to receive $25,000 through ACRE, and how to receive free business mentoring.

ACRE, the Agribusiness Center for Research and Entrepreneurship, is a SC Department of Ag initiative, seeks to provide additional economic prosperity for South Carolina agribusiness both from within the state and from across the globe. ACRE houses a unique research platform devoted to addressing specific challenges for industries that can provide more market opportunities to South Carolina agribusinesses and farmers. The research component combined with an entrepreneurship initiative is designed to help drive new ideas, technologies and solutions into the market to increase jobs and economic development in the South Carolina agricultural sector.

KPlayer Picture.JPG

Kyle Player, SC Dept of Ag, Assistant Director, ACRE (Agribusiness Center for Research and Entrepreneurship)

Kyle is the Assistant Director for ACRE and helps manage the program with an emphasis on the Entrepreneurship Center and Grants. She serves as the liaison between all persons working with ACRE within the Department and outside the Department.  She spent 7 years in Washington, DC with Airlines for America, a firm that works collaboratively with Congress and the Administration to promote safe, secure and healthy U.S. airline industry. She Received a B.S. Degree in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management (PRTM) and a Masters of PRTM with a concentration in Youth Development, both from Clemson.


James Matson, Matson Consulting, LLC

Mr. Matson is a business advisor with nearly thirty years marketing, developing, researching, writing, and teaching experience in management for private, government, and non-profit organizations. Via Matson Consulting, LLC, based in Aiken SC, he applies his experience to foster success for local foods, and rural communities. Since 2001, Matson Consulting has aided hundreds of rural businesses and communities in areas a broad as food hubs, meat processing, supply chain logistics, and distillery marketing.

Matson Consulting is a recognized national leader in the local foods industry, having created over a dozen publications on food initiatives across the nation.  Mr. Matson is a well-regarded speaker, and has presented local foods and rural communities at numerous national and regional conferences. His work was published by USDA’s Rural Development as the “Running a Food Hub” series.  In 2017, he was one of the authors presented by the Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis in its book “Harvesting Opportunity: The Power of Regional Food System Investments to Transform Communities.”

Mr. Matson’s has extensive know-how with grants includes administering federal grant programs and creating program grant manuals for U.S. and international grant programs.  He has shared this knowledge through workshops, enlightening producers and grant writers on techniques for successful grants. During a typical year, Matson Consulting help its clients secure over $8 million in grant funds. Individual applications typically range from $20,000 to a half a million dollars.  While small individually, Matson Consulting’s total grants secured for its clients exceed $100 million dollars.

Mr. Matson worked internationally with various international development organizations in 20 countries, including extended work in South America. Additionally, Mr. Matson worked as an economist with the USDA in Washington, DC. He has also worked with local Universities lecturing in Economics and marketing.  He was also founded and was a partner for a decade in an internet firm that provided promotional products.  Mr. Matson holds an M.S. in Agricultural Economics from UC Davis and Three Bachelor degrees from NC State. He is an active ham radio operator. He is raising his family in Aiken, SC.

John Carman Pic.jpg

John Carman, SCORE, Chair of the Aiken SCORE Chapter

John served as a communication and public affairs specialist for the US Navy and several Department of Defense organizations involved in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. He then served as a communication and public affairs specialist for the US Navy and several Department of Defense organizations involved in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Upon retirement, John moved to Aiken, SC where he has worked with SCORE, an all-volunteer small business and entrepreneurship-mentoring program connected to the Small Business Administration. SCORE is also connected to four local Chambers of Commerce in Aiken, N. Augusta, Augusta and Evans - Columbia County, as well as local universities and businesses. John currently serves as Chair of the Aiken SCORE Chapter.

USDA has recently asked SCORE to focus more on agribusiness in SC and John has been asked to lead that effort. He also serves as a Master Gardener with the Aiken Master Gardeners Association.

What is SCORE?

SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. SCORE has been doing this for over fifty years.

SCORE is supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and thanks to our nationwide network of 10,000 volunteers, we are able to deliver our services at no charge or at very low cost.  South Carolina has Six SCORE Chapters and more than 260 volunteers.

SCORE provides:

  • Volunteer Mentors who share their expertise across all business areas, including for-profit and not-profit organizations.

  • Free, confidential business Mentoring in person, via email or by video.

  • Free business tools, including templates and tips at score.org.

  • Inexpensive or free business Workshops (locally) and Webinars(online 24/7)

Thursday, January 24, 2019

11:00 AM - 11:50 AM

How to Get into the Wholesale Markets for Produce

Lonnie Kelley.jpg

Lonnie Kelley, Food Lion, Local Produce Sourcing Specialist

Lonnie Kelley led the Reid’s produce program from 2002 until Reid’s was sold in June of 2014. During this time Lonnie worked with SCDAG to celebrate and promote SC Grown in all Reid’s stores. During his time at BI-LO, Lonnie was the Local Produce Buyer working directly with growers in the southeast to increase distribution and recognition of Locally Grown for all BI-LO and Harvey’s stores. In 2016 he returned to Food Lion to help create the Local Goodness initiative for the Produce Department. Under his guidance Food Lion supported over 850 stores receiving Direct from grower deliveries in season across 4 states and nearly 200 farms. Lonnie’s mission is to connect local growers with the people who live and shop in those same communities.

12:15 PM - 3:45 PM

Successfully Growing Fruits and Vegetables

Pesticide License recertification Credits – 2

Growing fruits and vegetables ain’t easy folks. You need expertise, knowledge, wisdom, training, aces-up-your-sleeves, entrepreneurship, and blessings from heaven to be successful. Simply it is a fight. We want to, and are here at the SC AgriBiz, to help you survive and thrive. This session is moderated by Tony Melton, and you can see the individual topics below.

Diseases are a Battle You Can’t Afford to Lose!

Learn to recognize the dastardly foes, how to combat them, and win the battle to successfully grow fruits and vegetable.


Anthony (Tony) P. Keinath, Clemson University, Professor of Plant Pathology

Tony is a Professor of Plant Pathology and research (80%) and Extension (20%) vegetable pathologist at the Clemson University Coastal Research and Education Center in Charleston, SC. His area of expertise is diseases of cucurbits. Tony is an instructor in the Tri-County Master Gardener program and a gardening columnist for The Post and Courier newspaper. He is the recipient of the 2018 Godley-Snell Award for Excellence in Agricultural Research from Clemson University.

Weed Biology and Management in South Carolina Vegetables

This presentation will highlight life cycles of key driver weeds and how to control them in vegetable production.

Matthew Cutulle.png

Dr. Matthew Cutulle, Clemson University, Vegetable Weed Control Specialist

Dr. Cutulle received his PhD from Virginia Tech in Plant Pathology, Physiology and weed Science. Prior to Clemson he worked at Syngenta Crop Protection as part of the herbicide evaluation and development team. Dr. Cutulle currently hold an 80% research and 20% extension appointment at Clemson University as the vegetable weed control specialist.

Management of Soil Insect Pests in Sweet Potatoes

This session will focus on the ecology and management of common soil pests of sweet potato in North and South Carolina. We will review factors that increase risk for root damage in this production system. Current chemical intervention strategies will be reviewed.


Dr. Anders S. Huseth, NC State University, Asst. Professor

Dr. Anders S. Huseth is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at North Carolina State University. Anders is a research and extension faculty whose research focuses on how crop production and insecticide use patterns affect insect pests of field crops and sweet potato. As part of this effort, his program combines laboratory, small-plot, and on-farm studies to better understand the ecological impacts of pest management decisions at multiple spatial and temporal scales.

Saving the Butterbean Industry in SC

Temperature change has drastically limited Butterbean production in S.C. and since the year 2000 it has been limited to only spring and fall production with no summer production.  However, in years like 2018 with hot springs and hurricanes in the fall butterbean production was almost non-existent in S.C. resulting in many growers going out of business.  Some hope is on the horizon.

Tony Melton2.JPG

Tony Melton, Clemson Extension, Sr County Ext. Agent

Tony Melton has been serving the Vegetable Growers of the Pee Dee and around SC for over 30 years.  Many know of him as the Vegetable Guru because of his vast knowledge. Tony also has played a vital role in the expansion of produce production for McCall Farms expanding operation over the past years.  You will find Tony starting his days early with farm visits to mentor the grower’s request his professional assistance. Tony is also a household name around the Southeast as the co-host of "Making it Grow".