Fresh fruit for Tryon EstatesPublished 10:59am Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Gently tilting his white rocking chair back and forth, Tryon Estates’ resident John Albree relishes what’s left of the summer breeze as truck beds brimming with peaches come rolling steadily by him on their way to the shed at Strawberry Hill.
“My wife and I absolutely love strawberries and peaches,” Albree said. “We found out about Strawberry Hill years ago and immediately loved it. Their product is so good and they are just honest people.”
Albree and his wife, Phyllis, began visiting the Chesnee, S.C. farm seven years ago. Since then, Albree’s become a regular face around the farm and friend of the Cooley family that owns it.
“I’m here every Tuesday to pick up baskets of peaches for my friends at Tryon Estates and the staff there,” Albree said.
“This year I have brought back to Tryon Estates more than 30 gallons.”
Albree purchases his share of the succulent fruit packed into classic woven baskets with variety names like Red Havens, Jersey Queen and Autumn Flame.
James Cooley runs Strawberry Hill USA from his forklift, while his eldest daughter, vice-president Brandi Cooley-Easler, offers tours to school and community groups.
“It’s in our blood, and I guess it’s just what I was born to do,” Cooley-Easler said. “It’s such a great feeling to see the results of what you do every day.”
The Cooley family’s farm yields 1,000 acres of peaches each year.
Perry Edmund Cooley, Brandi’s great-grandfather, purchased the land in the early 1900s to farm cotton. He later offered the property to his son Gene Cooley. Gene, with his father’s help, planted 2,000 peach trees that year. His brother, Ansel joined him in running the farm in the mid-1950s and later the family-property was passed down to James, his wife, Kathi, and their four daughters.
Cooley-Easler said she and her family cherish the ability to share their love of the farm and fruits with others.
“We want people to come and enjoy themselves and feel the freshness of the farm,” Cooley-Easler said. “Farms are not as common as they used to be, so more people want to see it firsthand. We grow our own stuff and we care about how it tastes.”
The Cooleys even set up tasting stands where straight-from-the-orchard-slices can be enjoyed before selecting a certain variety to purchase.
This family farm also boasts 90 acres of strawberries – the largest strawberry farm in South Carolina – and 100 acres of blackberries. Under the shed roof, customers can also grab bags of nectarines, corn and tomatoes, among other produce.
The family also operates Strawberry Hill Café, where visitors can purchase breakfast or lunch and homemade ice cream.