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South Carolina Farmer Brings Home Farmer of the Year Award

For the second time in three years, a Carolina farm has won the Swisher Sweets Farmer of the Year Award at the Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, Georgia.
South Carolina’s James Cooley’s Strawberry Hill Farm near Chesnee, in Spartanburg County was selected from 10 finalist for the 2013 award. Cooley talks about his farm:

“We have been blessed. We have strawberries and peaches, blackberries, squash and cucumbers. We have upwards of 200 employees and want to make sure we have plenty of work and make sure the time is used wisely. We have gentlemen here on work visa from Mexico and we want their time here to be better used working and not sitting out.”

Cooley explains that Strawberry Hill goes back several generations:

“We started with my grandfather and grandfather before him with sweet potatoes and cotton. In 1944 my dad came back from the service and started the fir trees. Then I have added the strawberries in 1995. The good start off we had really helped us, we never would be what we are today with out it.”

Strawberry Hill has also added an agri-tourism aspect:

“My daughters started the tours. We do pumpkin tours in the fall and the strawberries in the spring. My youngest just graduated Clemson and they are working as a team to grow the tourism.”

And a restaurant as well:

“My wife sees to that. Our success here is because we are surrounded by great people who do a great job.”

Being a finalist in the Swisher Sweets Farmer of the Year Award took Cooley to the Sunbelt Ag Expo for the very first time:

“I have never been around such a great group of people. It was really fun. Very professional people and an honor to be there.”

Cooley talks about what winning this award means to him:

“Words cant describe it. I always remember that we won because of so many different people who helped this dream come true. My family and community are a big part of this.”

James Cooley of Strawberry Hill Farm in Spartanburg County, South Carolina.'

A native of the Texas Panhandle, Rhonda was born and raised on a cotton farm where she saw cotton farming evolve from ditch irrigation to center pivot irrigation and harvest trailers to modules. After graduating from Texas Tech University, she got her start in radio with KGNC News Talk 710 in Amarillo, Texas.