COLUMBIA, S.C. - The first new state highway signs directing travelers to South Carolina's rural attractions or working farms will be installed near Columbia, on Wadmalaw Island and in Colleton County by month's end.

The signs are similar to the blue signs that direct visitors to services off of interstate highways. But these signs have the state Parks, Recreation and Tourism or the Certified South Carolina Grown agriculture logos. The program is designed to make it easier for those who visit South Carolina to find tourist and agricultural attractions along the state's rural roads.

The first signs will point the way to Cottle Farm Strawberries in Columbia, Fire Fly Distillery and Irvin House Vineyard on Wadmalaw Island and Bee City Zoo in Cottageville in Colleton County.

Eighteen other signs have been approved and should be placed along roadways by the end of the year.

To be eligible for a sign, businesses must be located in a rural area, easily accessible from a paved highway, open to the public on a regular basis and offer unique tourist or agricultural experiences.

The sign program is being administered by the state Transportation Department in conjunction with the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism and the South Carolina Department of Agriculture.

The Agriculture Department or PRT must first conclude that attractions qualify for the signs.

Department approvals then accompany a sign application to the Transportation Department. An oversight committee reviews the final applications and, if approved, the business can pay the fees to have the signs erected.

In South Carolina, agriculture and forestry pump about $34 billion into the economy each year. Tourism is an $18 billion industry.