The Palmetto State's freshest seafood and agricultural produce is just a mouse click away through an interactive tool now available in South Carolina.

South Carolina Market Maker is an online resource that puts the state's agricultural products and from-the-boat seafood in the hands of consumers.

Bringing Market Maker to South Carolina is a cooperative effort between Clemson University Public Service Activities, the South Carolina Department of Agriculture, the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service.

From a farmer looking for a place to sell fresh-grown baby greens to a grocery store manager who wants to stock his coolers with locally caught shrimp, Market Maker's online interactive mapping system can locate businesses and products across the Palmetto State.

The innovative tool provides an important link for producers and consumers, said R. David Lamie, Extension specialist at the Clemson Institute for Economic and Community Development, who is leading the project in South Carolina.

Details can be summarized on a map to show concentrations of consumer markets and strategic business partners. Providing the information in a map-based format, in addition to lists and tables, makes for a more effective and user-friendly tool, Lamie said.

Census and other data to help producers identify niche markets also is a feature of the site. For example, a producer wanting to sell meat to Hispanic consumers can request a map showing the greatest concentration of upper-income Hispanic households, and then request a complete demographic profile of those locations. A chef who wants to buy wild-caught fish for his restaurant can search for local commercial operators in the state.

"This online tool will help the state's agriculture and seafood industries reach new markets and help consumers find just what they are looking for," Lamie said.

Market Maker was created in 2004 by the University of Illinois Extension sevice after a group of livestock producers said they wanted to supply quality meats to grocery stores in Chicago.

The initiative has grown to contain more than 500,000 farmers and other food-related enterprises in more than a dozen states.

The program connects all elements of the food chain — from farmers and fishermen to processors and distributors — so they can more efficiently conduct business. If a chef wants to buy only local shrimp, Market Maker can help make the connections.

Hugh Weathers, South Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture, said that making these connections, particularly between producers and consumers, is vital to the success of Palmetto State agribusiness.

"Market Maker compliments our 'Certified South Carolina Grown' marketing and branding program, which encourages consumers to buy South Carolina produce and seafood," Weathers said. "Nothing's fresher. Nothing's finer. Market Maker expands the free resources that are available to food buyers and the general public."

Niles Glasgow, South Carolina Natural Resources Conservation Service state conservationist said, "NRCS works with small and limited resource farmers to help them meet specific market niches. Market Maker is a great tool that will expand their opportunities for exposure and profit."

To register a business or search the Market Maker database, visit http://sc.marketmaker.uiuc.edu/.

For the national Market Maker site, visit http://national.marketmaker.uiuc.edu/.