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Crops across South Carolina suffered major losses after historic rains drowned the state in October 2015.

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'Numerous hiccups': Weather is life and death for the farmer

Back before I got a smart phone, the Weather Channel stayed on in my house constantly when I was home.

My wife claimed I was their greatest fan.

I tried to explain to her that the weather was the most important piece of information that I needed for the day. It was not the price of cotton, the cost of seed or the price of fertilizer.

It was the weather that would drive my phone calls for the day, the field problems I would investigate, the decisions I would help farmers with and the mood of the farmers I would deal with all day long. It was the driver of hope and despair. It still is.

Non-farmer types live with the weather, regardless of what it happens to be. Farmers live and die by it.

Drought, floods, freezes and heat waves all have an effect on farmers and their ability to make a living, whether they grow crops or raise livestock. If it lives outside, weather is the most important piece of the daily puzzle.

Back when my granddaddy farmed, you paid attention to the Farmer’s Almanac and lived by old sailor’s creeds. “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky at morning, sailors take warning."

Weather forecasting consisted of calling Kentucky to see what was heading our way! Well, maybe not that drastic, but it wasn’t nearly as accurate as what we have today.

Now there are very scientific businesses that make a fortune selling their predictions both long and short range to folks who stand to make or lose a lot of money in the markets based on weather.

Back in the day, workers were in the field at sunup to get ahead of the noon heat. They took a break during the heat of the day because so much was done by hand.

Now everything is mechanized, and tractors are heated and air-conditioned.

Farmers used to plant corn and cotton plants a foot apart to try to make a crop during dry years. Today farmers irrigate.

Modern farmers plow through the weather regardless. Acres are money and time is money. Making a profit is what pays for the equipment, the seed, the fertilizer and the labor.

With the acreage farmers must farm today to make a living, they have to find ways to work around the weather. They do it with irrigation, improved drought-tolerant varieties, soil moisture probes, conservation tillage, cold tolerant varieties, etc. The old saying “work smarter, not harder” is still good to live by.

There is a big difference between climate and weather. Weather is local. Climate is not.

There is a lot of talk today about climate change and its effects on agriculture. It seems weather extremes are the norm.

There are predictions out there to suit just about anyone’s taste.

It remains to be seen just how these changes will affect modern agriculture.

There do appear to be changes in climate, and while we have gotten very good at predicting weather, predicting climate is still a very elusive game requiring reams of data and super-computing capability.

Looking back in the past, it seems that our climate was stable and predictable. The seasons seemed to be pretty well defined, with only the occasional hiccup.

Today, there seem to be numerous hiccups that challenge farmers.

Just in the last few years, consider the 2015 floods, the hurricanes, the month-long onslaught of over a month of 95-degree-plus days.

It is apparent that the world in which we live and farm is changing. How well farmers adapt to these changes will determine the future of agriculture in our state.

Clemson and a host of other universities are working night and day to look down the road at the climate challenges that appear to be ahead and come up with solutions that will keep American agriculture the leader in the task of feeding and clothing the world.

It is a huge task that has immense bearing on the future of this country and the world.

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Orangeburg County 4-H, FFA offer youth insight into world of agriculture

Orangeburg County and agriculture are nearly synonymous as the county throughout its history has remained a state leader in agricultural production and interests.

Icons of the county's agricultural history are the competitive 4-H and FFA shows each year at the Orangeburg County Fair.

The events include the 4-H/FFA Youth Dairy Heifer Show, the Commercial Dairy Heifer Show, the Youth Beef Cattle Show, the Youth Barrow Show and the Meat Goat Project Show.

The shows continue the tradition of ensuring the fair's agricultural roots are respected and honored through these events.

The fair also provides youth an opportunity to participate in the 4-H Poultry Project and Pullet Chain project.

The Pullet Chain Project requires youth to raise chickens from newly hatched chicks to pre-laying hens (pullets).

During the project, youth learn how to care for their flock and record their progress in an official record book.

Youth are recognized for best Pullet Flock, Showmanship and Record Book completion.

In addition to the competitive shows at the fair, 4-H, which is the youth-development arm of Clemson University Cooperative Extension, provides youth a number of opportunities to learn more about the world of agriculture.

4-H programs cover animal science, agriculture, science, engineering, natural resources, healthy living, leadership and more.

The Orangeburg County 4-H has a number of events throughout the year to introduce young people and their families to the 4-H Livestock Programs.

Though the Livestock Programs youth learn about animal care, handling and showing in the ring by 4-H members in the projects.

There is also 4-H Club Summer Camp which helps young club members develop the skills they need to succeed in all areas of life.

From wake up to lights out, campers enjoy new challenges, discovery, friendships and fun, with a focus on developing character through cooperation, teamwork, respect for others and for our natural environment.

Other events include the 4-H Small Garden Project, an independent-study project where youth plan, plant, maintain and harvest a garden, as well as compete for county, regional and state awards.

The number of 4-H programs is expansive and includes opportunities for youth to be involved in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields, career building, a 4-H LEGO Club and a shooting sports program.

Membership in 4-H is offered to all youth, ages 5-19, on an age-appropriate basis.

The FFA has four chapters in The T&D Region. Three are in Orangeburg County -- Cordova, Branchville and Santee -- according to the FFA website.

FFA is an intracurricular student organization for those interested in agriculture and leadership.

FFA, however, is not just for students who want to be production farmers. The organization also welcomes members who aspire to careers as teachers, doctors, scientists, business owners and more.

4-H Engineering Challenge showcases state’s STEM-savvy students

WEST COLUMBIA — Isabella Birket’s interest in 4-H was piqued by a poster at a local farm supply store advertising the 4-H rabbit club in Kershaw County. But it didn’t take her long to discover the South Carolina 4-H Youth Development Program is about much more than just bunnies.

The organization provides a number of career development events and opportunities through agriscience fairs, public speaking, ag mechanics, agronomy, nursery and landscape and others.

FFA members also have a chance to visit the South Carolina General Assembly and embark on camping trips through the FFA's camping program.

For more information about 4-H or FFA, call 803-534-6280 or email Glenna Mason at

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Williams honored for life in the arts; Orangeburg photographer to receive Verner Award

Orangeburg photographer Cecil Williams is scheduled to receive the Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Award for the Arts, the state’s highest arts honor.

Williams said he was overwhelmed, when he learned that he will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award.

“It was a very, very wonderful experience and a surprise to get a phone call,” Williams said.

The awards are presented by the South Carolina Arts Commission, and Commission Chairman Henry Horowitz said that the recipients are individuals who have had a large impact on the state.

“It is an honor and privilege to recognize individuals and organizations who live out the service, commitment and passion that help the arts thrive in South Carolina,” Horowitz said via press release.

“Each of the Verner Award recipients makes a tremendous contribution not just locally, but they are honored for broad impact on the state’s arts community and beyond. These are outstanding ambassadors for our state,” Horowitz added.

Williams thanked Dr. Bobby Donaldson, Bud Furrillo and Dr. Leo Twiggs for supporting him and submitting his name as a possible recipient of the award.

When he began his career as a journalist, winning awards weren’t his focus, Williams said.

“I really never looked at trying to do something to win an award. What I think might have happened along the way, and the reason I have been successful in receiving some recognition, is the goals were seemingly divine obsessions to me,” Williams stated.

“I wanted to reach higher, and wider, and longer to bring about something,” Williams said. “Almost every task or thing that I’ve ever embarked upon, I think was larger than me.”

The Orangeburg native and Claflin University alumnus is a photographer, videographer, publisher, author, architect and inventor.

Williams began his professional career at the age of 15 as a freelance photographer, working for publications such as JET and the Afro-American. Williams is widely known for his photographic documentation of the civil rights movement.

Williams is a recipient of the Order of the Palmetto, the state’s highest civilian honor, and the Governor’s Award in the Humanities.

The Verner Awards will be presented at South Carolina Arts Awards Day sponsored by Colonial Life on May 1 at the University of South Carolina Alumni Center.

Other categories for the award and those being honored are:

• Artist -- Tyrone Geter, Columbia

• Individual -- Kathleen (Kathi) P. Bateson, Hilton Head Island

• Arts in education -- Simeon Warren, Charleston (Individual)

• Arts in education -- S.C. African American Heritage Commission, Hartsville (organization)

• Business -- Hampton III Gallery, Taylors

• Government -- Florence County Museum, Florence

• Organization -- Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston

• Organization -- Columbia Stage Society (Town Theatre) Columbia (Special Award)

For more information, visit

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Rebuilt Wendy’s to open

The Wendy's at 746 John C. Calhoun Drive is scheduled to re-open March 12 after being torn down and completely rebuilt.

"It will be the latest and greatest of everything from Wendy's," Carolina Restaurant Group President Quint Graham said last year when announcing the new restaurant.

"It will be a very attractive design and a very attractive facility,” he said.

Graham could not be reached for comment Friday.

Charlotte-based Carolina Restaurant Group purchased both the John C. Calhoun Drive and Citadel Road restaurants in February 2018.

It closed the John C. Calhoun Drive restaurant April 15. The restaurant was torn down in November.

The Citadel Road Wendy’s restaurant, located off of U.S. 601 near Interstate 26, has remained open. The company plans to renovate it in the future.

The restaurant’s new design features recycled materials and LED lighting, as well as Energy Star equipment, including high-efficiency HVAC systems. The costs are lower for franchisees.

The restaurant will employ about 40 when it reopens. It employed 20 when it closed, according to company officials.

Wendy’s is an Ohio-based company with more than 6,700 fast-food restaurants across the world. It plans to remodel 70 percent of its restaurants by 2020, according to Forbes.