High tech brings new methods to low tech farming - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

High tech brings new methods to low tech farming

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

According to the US Department of Agriculture, the average farmer in South Carolina is around 60 years old.

It's an industry that employs more than 200,000 people in the Palmetto State. Now infused with high technology, the state's $34 billion agriculture industry is attracting the interest of a younger generation.

"I think a lot of people have the picture in their mind of someone plowing with a mule or someone riding a tractor and plowing," said Aaron Wood, assistant commissioner for the Agriculture Department.

But that's now a dated misconception that students at the Commissioners School of Agriculture  are eager to challenge.

"It's not very popular at all," said Lancaster High student Anna Scott. "Well normally I think people just expect their food to appear at the grocery store and they don't appreciate the work."

Wood is hoping these courses will help the teens finally locate that appreciation through other subjects they might enjoy.

"They have that interest in math and science and we're showing them how they can apply that here," said Wood. "Because that's what ag is applied science."

Here at Clemson University's Fruit Research Farm, students learn how fruit is being bred to resist pests and even taste better.

"We do have less land to farm on, so the main goal of the farmer is to produce -- yield the most out of the least," said Scott.

Clemson's research with peaches is just one example of how farming has moved from the fields to the science lab.

"Tractors are run by GPS. Fields are zone mapped so you can put water and chemicals just where they're needed," said Wood.

And it's inspiring the students to put their modern day technology skills to work in one of the world's oldest industries.

Copyright 2013 WIS. All rights reserved.

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