My mind always wanders when I travel South Carolina’s backroads, imagining what life is like on the farms along the way. Fortunately, many of our farms open their doors to the public, offering a range of activities—from seasonal U-picks to harvest festivals—that allow a glimpse of country life and the best of South Carolina’s bounty.
Family owned and operated for more than a century, McLeod Farms grows many Southern staples, but the farm’s claim to fame is its peaches. Harvesting on the farm begins in late May, with peaches typically hand-picked daily until September.
Although you can’t pick your own peaches, you can buy tree-ripe varieties at the roadside market or online for shipment around the country. McLeod’s McBee market, along with a retail location at the Pee Dee State Farmers Market in Florence, also carries specialty products like peach barbecue sauce and peach salsa.
“A large portion of the farm’s late spring and summer business is from folks traveling Highway 51 to Myrtle Beach,” said McLeod Farms’ Kay McCutcheon. The farm’s reputation for quality produce, baked goods and hand-dipped ice creams is a draw.
Annual harvest celebrations include the Strawberry Festival in May, Peach Festival in July and Fall Festival in October. Kids’ activities, live music, wagon tours and recipe contests are part of the fun. There are U-pick strawberries and pumpkins in season, too.
Few foods say spring and summer like juicy strawberries, and few spots are as popular for them as Cottle Farms. Picking season generally runs from late March or early April to about mid-June, weather permitting. Call ahead or check the farm’s Facebook page for day-to-day strawberry availability.
Cottle is off a stretch of highway where the land begins to open up to horse farms, mom-and-pop shops and rural churches. Still, it’s just a short drive from Columbia. Grab a bucket and walk the neat rows of leafy plants to look for ripe strawberries that are plump, firm and red through to the tip.
If you don’t have time to pick, look for Cottle stands and tents around the Columbia area, where you can buy strawberries, jams and other specialties. You’ll also find these strawberries on restaurant menus locally and across the state—Cottle’s berries have been featured on menus at the Masters golf tournament in Augusta as well as at the governor’s mansion.
Bryson’s Apple Orchard is nestled in the Long Creek area of the Blue Ridge Mountains, home to lakes, waterfalls, hiking trails and the Chattooga River. But make no mistake: Many people traveling this way come for the apples. Bryson’s lets visitors pick their own in season, from mid-August to November. Bryson’s also has a stand on-site that sells jams and jellies, cider, honey and other delights.
The Bryson family put down roots in this area in the late 1960s, planting their first apple trees not long after settling the property. Today, the orchard produces golden delicious, gala, mutsu, granny smith, yates, fuji, winesap, supreme gold and sunshine apples. Bryson’s added peach trees in the late 1990s and now sells fresh peaches from the stand each summer.
After a day of picking apples at Bryson’s—perhaps enjoying lunch at one of the orchard’s picnic tables—you won’t want to leave this peaceful slice of country. So don’t. Spend a long summer or fall weekend enjoying the abundance of outdoor recreation. Campsites and other lodging choices are just a short drive away.
Thompson Farm is just 25 miles from one of South Carolina’s entertainment capitals—Myrtle Beach—and offers endless ways to have a good time on the farm. In fact, this family-run farm on the outskirts of Conway is known for its special events, many focused on autumn- and Halloween-themed fun each October. The centerpiece is a six-acre corn maze and pumpkin patch. Those who like a scare will enjoy late-night Flashlight Fridays in the corn maze. The fall season also features a Trick or Treat Trail, Grandparents Weekends, drive-in movie nights and more.
Of course, Thompson—established in 1845—is an agricultural farm at heart. There are seasonal tomatoes, potatoes, bell peppers, corn and strawberries. Or stop in at the General Store, one of Horry County’s oldest, where you will find preserves, fresh fruits and veggies, flowers and other farm-fresh products.Discover more great ideas for family getaways.