Millions of visitors come to Myrtle Beach each year for the sun, surf and sand — without the soil, crops and barns of a family farm ever crossing their minds. But some of the best-kept secrets on the Grand Strand, especially during the fall harvest season, are the rural sections of the Carolina coast that give visitors a firsthand look at what the area was like before it grew into a popular vacation destination.
Once a thriving agricultural center geared toward the production of tobacco, timber and a variety of crops and animals, the Grand Strand is still home to several working farms where the past is preserved for future generations to experience. Older visitors can take a stroll down memory lane to the happier days of their childhood, while younger guests can leave the modern amenities of Compass Cove Oceanfront Resort for a day and see how folks lived before the invention of computers and cellphones. Here are four area farms that provide a great escape from the modern world during your Myrtle Beach fall vacation:
* Freewoods Farm: The only African-American historical living farm in the nation is located only a short drive away from Compass Cove in the Burgess community of Horry County. Highlighting the often overlooked contributions of black farmers in America since the 1600s, Freewoods Farm features 40 acres of hands-on activities and authentic displays such as barns, tools and a modest farmhouse. There's also a wetlands preserve showing the scenic setting that has gone unchanged over the years, and a Main Street section featuring a farmer's market, cultural displays and a restaurant. Special fall activities include a horse show (Oct. 8), cane sugar syrup-making and the harvesting of various crops from September through November. For more information, visit www.freewoodsfarm.com.
* Indigo Farms: Located on the Carolina border on Highway 55, about 20 miles north of Compass Cove, this 102-acre farm goes all out for autumn harvest the entire month of October. Beginning with a kickoff event on Oct. 1, Indigo Farms holds hayrides, pig races, corn mazes and pumpkin picking. Oct. 15 is Pumpkin Day, when the winner of the grand-prize pumpkin is crowned, and Oct. 22 offers nighttime hay rides around the property and a bonfire for roasting hot dogs and making s’mores. The festivities conclude on Oct. 29 with a big fall festival and harvest celebration. For more info, visit www.indigofarmsmarket.com.
* L.W. Paul Living History Farm: Located in rural Conway, about 25 miles inland from Compass Cove, this 17-acre farm pays tribute to the rich agricultural heritage of the area. The branch of the Horry County Museum operates as most local farms did in the early 1900s. Crops are grown and harvested each fall, farm animals are fed and tended to in the barn, and farmhands perform daily chores, such as harvesting and canning crops, preserving meat, making lye soap, cooking on a wood stove, and washing and hanging laundry. Kids can see firsthand how their ancestors lived during a simpler time. For more info, visit www.horrycountymuseum.org/farm.
* Thompson Farm and Nursery: Situated on more than 200 acres in rural Conway, about 25 miles inland from Compass Cove, Thompson Farm is home to the annual Corn Maze Festival. This year's maze pays tribute to the NCAA College World Series champion Coastal Carolina University baseball team, using a field-of-dreams design to honor the local school's major accomplishment. Through the month of October, the corn maze is open to guests to find their way through the curvy course. On Friday nights, the maze is open after dark so visitors can carry flashlights to navigate the layout. The night is capped by a fireworks show in the dark country sky. For more info, visit www.thompsonfarmandnursery.com.
After a fun day on the farm, head back to Compass Cove Oceanfront Resort and enjoy the modern comforts and conveniences of a first-class resort. It's just one more way to enjoy your stay during your fall Myrtle Beach vacation.