Diamond Hill Aquaponics Project

Melissa Billey, Project Manager – melissa.a.billey@gmail.com

May 9, 2018

ABBEVILLE — Mrs. Busby’s class at Diamond Hill Elementary School is getting a hands-on experience with an aquaponics project.  The aquaponics equipment was delivered to Mrs. Busby’s class in February 2018.  The lesson, grow plants in water, with nutrients coming from the fish living in the water, from which clean water is returned to the fish because the plants filtered it.  Sound like a cycle, well it is.  A wonderful cycle that these children are very excited about. 

On April 23 2018, as Jenny Mountford, Abbeville County 4-H Agent, and myself entered Mrs. Busby’s class, the first thing I noticed was the teaching style Mrs. Busby has…traditional and hands-on.  In the back corner of the room, sits the aquaponics unit, a system that is doing so much more than just sustaining fish and growing lettuce.  This aquaponics system is teaching these children about plant and animal life, life cycles, sustainability, environmental changes affecting plants and animals, biology, and so much more.  As I listened in during her lesson, I was amazed at the amount of information these students have not only learned, but retained.  They answered every question that Mrs. Busby and Jenny Mountford asked.  They talked about xylem, transpiration, carnivorous plants, evaporation, nitrogen levels; and the conversation continued about how the fish were helping the plants, and the plants were helping the fish.  Did you know fish can drown?  Mrs. Busby’s class does.  They even know how to keep it from happening by making sure there is enough oxygen in the water and how to provide it.  Currently, the class is growing lettuce; however, they are not limited to this plant only.  The class is getting ready to change out the lettuce to a different plant.  In an aquaponics farm, you get to harvest both the plants and the fish for consumption.  These children may or may not realize it right now, but they are not only learning science, they are learning agriculture also.  The students were able to taste the “fruits of their labor” or should I say vegetables.  They said the lettuce tasted good.  One student comically piped up that he prefers ranch on his lettuce; I believe I would tend to agree with that student.  However, in all seriousness, an entire salad could be grown from aquaponics and the fish harvested for the main course.

A joint effort between Clemson University, Freshwater Coast Community Foundation, and the Abbeville County 4-H has brought this opportunity to Mrs. Busby’s class.  The aquaponics equipment was provided by the Freshwater Coast Community Foundation.  Clemson University has provided the support for the project.  The Abbeville County 4-H program reached out to Diamond Hill Elementary to connect with Emily Busby as a teacher.  This partnership has allowed for the traditional classroom education to meet with the 4-H hands-on education to give new opportunities to our Abbeville County youth.  Dr. Lance Beecher, Aquaponics, Aquaculture and Fisheries Specialist, Clemson Cooperative Extension Service, has been instrumental in helping to get the unit set up and providing help as needed for Mrs. Busby’s class.  While there are many high schools around the state that have aquaponics systems, very few middle schools or elementary schools, if any, have that system.  This is a very unique opportunity for this 6th grade class.  Dr. Beecher is more than happy to assist any school out there to get a program together and offer advice on system design.  Another aquaponics unit is being utilized by an organization in Abbeville County, the Due West Robotics First Lego League Team, Narwhal of Ideas.  This unit is housed at Erskine College and is maintained by the robotics team.  The team is still excited over the lettuce they grew.  These are projects that Mrs. Busby’s class and the Narwhal of Ideas robotics team will never forget.  These hands-on learning experiences are totally educational, totally interesting, and totally fun; and that is what makes for a great education and learning experience.


Mrs. Busby’s 6th grade class adding plants to the aquaponics system, May 4, 2018.

Due West: The Produce Patch

Melissa Billey, Project Manager – melissa.a.billey@gmail.com

April 17, 2018

DUE WEST — A charming produce market and store is nestled inside of Due West, SC.  The Produce Patch, 203 N. Main Street, Due West, SC, 29639, holds some of the most delicious, local produce found in the area.  The Produce Patch is owned by Cindy Adams.  Visiting the store is like visiting old friends.  Larry Posey, Store Manager, is there to greet you when you arrive.  The store is open daily, Monday through Friday from 9:00AM until 6:00PM, Saturday from 9:00AM until 2:00PM, and closed on Sundays.

This wonderful store is home to South Carolina grown produce along with specialty items from the Amish Country.  Cindy Adams travels South Carolina to find new items to be carried in her store.  The vast variety of items is amazing, along with the flavor and taste of these items.  And yes, I did sample a few items as “research,” and they were incredible.  You can find everything from fresh produce, to flavorful granola, tasty fruit juices, and so much more. 

The store began when Cindy realized that the area did not have a “local” grocery store, and she wanted to fill that gap.  The Produce Patch has grown into so much more though.  Instead of just being a store, she is carrying specialty items such as Certified SC Grown items, organic items, and teas that are grown right here in beautiful South Carolina.


The Produce Patch with its many varieties of items, April 17, 2018.

FCCRD Advisory Board Meeting

Melissa Billey, Project Manager – melissa.a.billey@gmail.com

April 18, 2018

ABBEVILLE — A meeting of the FCCRD Advisory Board was held on April 18, 2018, at 8:30AM, at WCTEL conference room.  Lee Logan, the Chairman of the FCCRD Advisory Board, opened the meeting with a warm welcome and prayer.  Breakfast was provided by WCTEL.

 Wilder Ferreira began the meeting with the introduction of the new employee, Melissa Billey.  She will be assisting Wilder as the FCCRD Project Manager as the FCCRD continues to grow.  Wilder gave a presentation on the many projects that have been completed, projects that are on-going, and future projects that are in the works.  FCCRD has made such a difference in assisting the rural areas of Abbeville County, McCormick County, and the Starr-Iva Community.  The development and continued support in agri-business, education, entrepreneurship, and the arts has been seen and felt in each community in these counties.  The passion for partnerships and alliances working together can be felt from each individual in attendance that represented these areas.  Wilder Ferreira’s expertise has been utilized by the FCCRD to help revitalize and grow programs to assist the communities.

 Lee Logan followed Wilder with information on the Abbeville Promise.  The Abbeville Promise Kick-off Event is scheduled for April 19, 2018.  Lee also updated the group on how well the projects are coming together and impacting the areas.  Some projects that are making an impact are:

  • The Aquaponics Project at Diamond Hill Elementary where 6th grade students in Ms. Busby’s class are learning about plants grown in water.
  • The Starr-Iva Alliance that is focusing on workshops, public relations, and consulting to promote small businesses in the Starr and Iva areas.
  • The Abbeville County Youth Leadership Program that will focus on high school seniors to promote soft skills and leadership.
  • The McCormick County Workforce Development Program that will focus on high school juniors to obtain an IT Professional Certification upon graduation for job placement.

 The meeting was closed by Lee Logan.

Wilder Ferreira, FCCRD, speaking during the FCCRD Advisory Board Meeting at WCTEL on April 18, 2018.

FCCF Abbeville Promise Capital Campaign Kick-off Event

Melissa Billey, Project Manager – melissa.a.billey@gmail.com

April 19, 2018

ABBEVILLE — The Freshwater Coast Community Foundation (FCCF) held a kick-off event for the Abbeville Promise Capital Campaign on April 19, 2018, at the Piedmont Technical College (PTC) Abbeville Campus, 143 SC-72, Abbeville, SC 29620.  A welcome was given by Brad Evans, Chairman of the FCCF.  The ceremony was opened in prayer by Rev. Josh Chiles.

The Abbeville Promise was introduced to the guests as a “promise.”  It is a promise for the future, a promise to give assistance to empower our youth to further their education, a promise to these children’s parents for their children’s future and their own future.  Jeff Wilson said it well when he said, “When we invest in programs and projects, we invest in not only our children but also ourselves.”  By investing in the Abbeville Promise, we are investing in ourselves, our children, and our future.  The Abbeville Promise is an “investment in the future of our community,” Jeff explained, it provides for “bright and prosperous futures for our children.”  Jeff Wilson is a Co-Chairman for the Abbeville Promise along with Andy Timmerman.  Stephen Taylor made a good point when he said, “The Abbeville Promise gives us a very important tool.”  Tools are used to do work; they are used to make our work easier; the Abbeville Promise will make the “work” of getting a higher education “easier” for the students of Abbeville County by making it more accessible.  The Abbeville Promise is a scholarship that will allow students in Abbeville County attending Piedmont Technical College the financial assistance to be able to earn a two-year degree without cost to them.  This opens so many doors for students who would not have been able to attend college due to financial constraints, but wanted to go to college.

Leomont Evans, an Abbeville native, who graduated Abbeville High School, was the keynote speaker.  Leomont went to Clemson University with a football scholarship and went on to play in the NFL for the Washington Redskins from 1996 until 1999.  He spoke about the importance of a higher education and doing great things.  Leomont said, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”  This “promise” will allow these students to be whatever they want to be.

To date, the Abbeville Promise campaign has received $713,500 in pledges toward the goal of $1.2 million.  This is a great milestone toward the necessary campaign total needed to award the scholarships.

At the conclusion of the program, guests were given a tour of the new Mechatronics Lab at the Piedmont Technical College Abbeville Campus.  Refreshments were provided and served by the Piedmont Technical College Culinary Arts students.

FCCF Abbeville Promise Capital Campaign Kick-off, Piedmont Technical College Abbeville Campus, April 19, 2018.

Lake Russell Recreation and Tourism Coalition

Melissa Billey, Project Manager – melissa.a.billey@gmail.com

March 26, 2018

ABBEVILLE — Lake Russell Recreation and Tourism Coalition (LRRTC) is very excited about the support that it has received from its network of Sponsors, Donors, and Supporters.  LRRTC was formed to encourage, facilitate, and develop Lake Russell focused activities, events, and opportunities.  This will enhance the quality of life for all of the Lake Russell communities by increasing and promoting public awareness of the opportunities available through events on the shores of Lake Russell.

This past year has been very successful in transforming the Lake Russell area in Abbeville County to showcase the “Great Outdoors.”  So many things have been accomplished because of the continued support from the community.  Some of the events that have been held are the Lake Russell Hustle, which is a timed Run or Walk; the Paddle Fest, that allows you to enjoy Lake Russell by kayak, paddle boards, paddle boats, and canoes; the Kids Fishing Derby, held at the Blue Hole Recreation Area for all youth 15 years old and under; the Freedom Blast, which is the Premier Annual Event of the LRRTC and is held the Saturday before July 4th; and the Blue Hole Fall Jubilee, held in October, which is a fun-filled Fall Season Event.

The Lake Russell Recreation and Tourism Coalition Events for 2018 are:

Lake Russell Hustle, March 17

Fishing Derby, April 21

Paddle Fest, May 26

Freedom Blast, June 30

Blue Hole Jubilee, October 13

The LRRTC is bringing many people from outside of the area to visit and enjoy the beautiful Lake Russell area in Abbeville County.  With these visitors to the beautiful Lake Russell area, the economy is being enhanced and recreation is growing.  This could not be accomplished without the group of dedicated volunteers and the network of people willing to give contributions and time.  The LRRTC appreciates everyone in the network and looks to their continued support of such a worthy endeavor.

You may contact the Lake Russell Recreation and Tourism Coalition, 1130 Latimer Road, Calhoun Falls, SC 29628, phone: (864)630-5771, email:  rktinsley@aol.com.  You may also visit the LRRTC website at www.lakerussellrecreation.com/ and their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/LRRTC .  Every donation directly impacts many lives in this area.  Sponsor levels are:

Platinum         $2000 or above

Gold                $1000 or above

Silver               $500 or above

Bronze            $250 or above

Friends            $100 or above

Lake Russell Blue Hole Pavilion and lake area.


United Abbeville Group Meeting

Melissa Billey, Project Manager – melissa.a.billey@gmail.com

March 19, 2018

ABBEVILLE — A meeting of the United Abbeville Group was held on March 13, 2018, at 6:00PM at The Renaissance Retirement Center, 5 Frank Pressly Drive, Due West, SC 29639.  Paul Bell, The Renaissance Retirement Center, opened the meeting with a warm welcome.  Dinner was provided by The Renaissance Retirement Center.

 Lee Logan began the meeting with updates on the Capital Projects Sales Tax.  The “Penny Tax” would be utilized to benefit Abbeville County in funding projects to improve the communities in this county.  “We are dedicated to fund projects to create jobs and opportunities,” Lee explained.  This is an, “all or nothing, pay as you go, no bond,” investment in Abbeville County.  Brad Evans, Freshwater Coast Community Foundation, gave an update on the Freshwater Coast Center for Rural Development (FCCRD) and its partners.  He spoke about the work on the Abbeville Promise that will be beneficial to the students of Abbeville County that are graduating high school.  The Abbeville Promise will allow these students to attend Piedmont Technical College (PTC) with no cost to them for tuition.  Brad Evans also spoke about the advances that FCCRD, along with its partners, has made in Abbeville County, McCormick County, and southern Anderson County.  Many opportunities have been created and many more are in the works for these counties.  A collaboration between FCCRD, SCBDC, local consultants, and Piedmont Technical College has opened the door for workshops that benefit small business owners.  These workshops offer professional development and business training in marketing, finance, start-up, human resources, bookkeeping, computer software, sales, investment, and social media.  More than 100 businesses have participated in these workshops with an estimated 500 attendees of business owners and employees.  There have also been many grants awarded to fund revitalization in the communities.  In education and entrepreneurship, a Youth Entrepreneurship Education Program was created through a Business Plan Competition held at the high schools.  There was also a Workforce Development Program created through the Abbeville County Education Week.  The next person to speak was Dr. Betty Jo Hall.  She gave a school update for Abbeville County.  The meeting was finished out with Stephen Taylor giving the Strategic Plan update and both, Stephen Taylor and David Garner updating everyone on the litter campaign.  The meeting was closed by Bryan McClain, Chairman.

Brad Evans, FCCF, speaking during the United Abbeville Group Meeting at The Renaissance Retirement Center on March 13, 2018.

McCormick County School District

Melissa Billey, Project Manager – melissa.a.billey@gmail.com

March 2, 2018

MCCORMICK — McCormick County School District Superintendent, Don D. Doggett, met with Renee Robinson, Regional Career Specialist-Western Piedmont Education Consortium; Matt Wiggins, Upper Savannah Regional Workforce Advisor-South Carolina Dept. of Commerce; and Wilder Ferreira, Clemson Extension, on February 27, 2018, at 1:30PM, to work on a plan to assist students in furthering their education in the Information Technology world. 

A plan was made for an Information Technology Leadership Academy to educate students on not only their technical skills in the Information Technology (IT) careers, but also assist them in their soft skills and communication skills.  This certificate program will allow students to join the IT workforce after high school, but more importantly it will open a door for these students to want to further their education after high school at a two-year or four-year institution. 

During the meeting, you could feel the excitement as talks progressed about what to include in the certificate program.  McCormick County School District has a desire to create programs to help make students more marketable, whether that student’s path is a career or college after high school.  To quote Mr. Doggett, “Whatever we need to do, I am all in.”  These individuals have a deep eagerness and enthusiasm for the students moving through high school.  They realize the strengths these students have, and what they can bring to the community after graduation with the right programs in place.  They want to help these students realize their potential and help them to attain these goals.


Don D. Doggett, McCormick County School District Superintendent; Renee Robinson, Regional Career Specialist- Western Piedmont Education Consortium; Matt Wiggins, Upper Savannah Regional Workforce Advisor-South Carolina Dept. of Commerce; and Wilder Ferreira, FCCF, discussing the plans for the Information Technology Leadership Academy.


McCormick: Mt. Carmel Small Group Committee Meeting

Melissa Billey, Project Manager – melissa.a.billey@gmail.com

February 27, 2018

MCCORMICK — A meeting of the Mt. Carmel Small Group Committee was held on February 27, 2018, at 11:00AM at the McCormick County Chamber of Commerce, 100 South Main Street, McCormick, SC 29835.  Wilder Ferreira, FCCF; Matt Wiggins; Mark Davis, Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism; Scott Hyatt, US Army Corps of Engineers; Charlotte Tallent, McCormick County Chamber of Commerce; Mike and Geri Regan, McAllister’s Home Furnishings & More, were in attendance.  Wilder Ferreira led the meeting.

 The “Friends of the Mt. Carmel Campground” discussed the repurposing of the campground, and it’s potential.  This will be an incredible investment opportunity for outdoor professionals.  This investment will lead to many opportunities also for the surrounding area as the “new” Mt. Carmel Campground is utilized to attract hundreds of families to the Mt. Carmel area.  Mt. Carmel Campground was opened in 1967, but unfortunately closed in 2013. 

 The committee reviewed how Mt. Carmel Campground will be marketed with incentives to potential investors.  Each person there brought up many positive key points about the campground and the possibilities it has in the future.  Some preliminary plans were discussed to assist in the beautification of the area along with some community partnerships that could be utilized during this process of seeking an investor.

 An abundance of opportunities await an investor.  The next step of finding that investor is in the works.  The potential is there.  It can be seen.  It is just finding the right entity with the same vision and desire for Mt. Carmel Campground.

McCormick: Mt. Carmel Small Group Committee Meeting. Wilder Ferreira, FCCF; Matt Wiggins; Mark Davis, Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism; Scott Hyatt, US Army Corps of Engineers; Charlotte Tallent, McCormick County Chamber of Commerce; Mike and Geri Regan, McAllister’s Home Furnishings & More, discussing the Mt. Carmel Campground.

FCCF Business Plan Competition

Sally Caldwell, Communications Coordinator

April 20, 2016

DUE WEST — On May 9, 2016, Erskine College and the Freshwater Coast Community Foundation (FCCF) are proud to host their first ever Business Plan Competition at Erskine College.

During this competition, students from various high schools will present innovative entrepreneurial ideas in a PowerPoint presentation to a panel of judges. These judges will consist of successful local businessmen and women.

The competition will take place from 9:00am to 2:30pm. The Business Strategy class of Erskine’s business professor Tracy McCurry will assist in the planning and executing of the event. These Erskine students will carry out various tasks, such as timekeeping, greeting, monitoring rooms, and escorting, among others.

In order for high school students to compete in this event, they must first compete and win in their high school competitions. The students present their PowerPoint business proposals to their high school teachers and then the winners submit the PowerPoints to Erskine College. The Erskine business class students will then review the slides and notes and rank the competitors for the preliminary competition.

The preliminary competition will take place in Reid Hall on the Erskine Campus, and then the participants and their teachers will be escorted to Erskine’s Bowie Arts Center for the final competition. Following the final competition will be a guest business speaker from the FCCF, and then at 2:30pm the awards ceremony will take place.

Both Erskine College and the FCCF are excited to be a part of this competition. The community is welcome to come observe the competition and learn more about business ideas and how they become successful. The FCCF looks forward to the competition and to working with the business department of Erskine College.

The business students of Erskine College that will plan, host, and execute the upcoming Freshwater Coast Community Foundation Business Plan Competition on the campus of Erskine College.

The business students of Erskine College that will plan, host, and execute the upcoming Freshwater Coast Community Foundation Business Plan Competition on the campus of Erskine College.