History

James E. Cooley grew up on a family farm with dreams many believed were unreachable. As a third generation farmer, James learned the value of a hard day's work and the hardships that resulted from a cold winter. The daily trials were not enough to scare James away from carrying on the Cooley Family Tradition: FARMING.  

In the early 1900s, James' grandfather, Perry Cooley, purchased land to farm cotton in the upstate of SC. In 1946, Perry Cooley offered the land to his son, Frank Eugene "Gene" Cooley, to farm peaches on. Since Gene had just returned from World War II, Perry agreed to furnish the land and purchase the trees if Gene would dig the 2,000 holes in the fertile South Carolina soil. By the mid 1950s, Gene’s brother, Ansel, joined him in the peach business and built a packing shed that they named "Cooley Brothers Peach Shed". The nearly 400 American flags that fly in the summer wind are a tribute to Gene and Ansel Cooley to commemorate their service in World War II.  

Gene and his wife Janet had two children, Jeannie and James. The farm continued as Jeannie pursued her teaching career and James daydreamed at school about being at the farm. He spent his high school years waking up early and going to the packing shed to pack peaches before school and his summers plowing land and picking peaches, doing what he could to help out. 

By 1978, James had graduated high school and was ready to join the family business full time! James met his wife, Kathi, during "Senior Week" at Myrtle Beach, marrying in 1979. James prayed for a son over the next 10 years, but ended up being blessed with 4 healthy daughters. Through years of losing peach crops due to cold weather, James knew he had to diversify the farm in order to put dinner on the table for his family. Over much consideration, he decided to clear some peach trees in 1995 and plant 6 acres of strawberry plants. It was a big chance to take, but he needed to make ends meet and thought it was worth a shot. Little did he know this was one of the most important decisions he would ever make in his life.

Here’s what we've been up to since 1995...

  • By the early 2000's, the name "Strawberry Hill U.S.A." starting resonating with our new generation of customers. 
  • In 2001, James built a restaurant on the farm that he named Strawberry Hill U.S.A. Café and Ice-cream Parlor.
  • In 2007, James and his Uncle Freddie Buckner added 36 acres of blackberries to the farm.
  • In 2008, James added a second roadside market located off I-85 beside the Prime Outlet Mall in Gaffney, SC. Visit Strawberry Hill in Gaffney.
  • As of 2017, Strawberry Hill U.S.A. is now the largest strawberry farm in SC with 115 acres. Peaches are still our primary crop with close to 1,000 acres in production. We have also ventured into growing summer squash, cucumbers, cantaloupes, runner beans, and pumpkins.

Whether we are referred to as "Cooley Farms" or "Strawberry Hill U.S.A.", we recognize the importance of our past and the future of our farm. There is no doubt that the good Lord has blessed our family beyond measure. We cannot thank YOU, our customers, enough for the never ending support and love that has kept our family business alive for 70 years. Thank you, friends!

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