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The Wilson Family Brings Fun to the Farm

The Wilson Family Brings Fun to the Farm

The history of Cotton Hills Farm in Chester dates back to 1882 when the original 100-acre homeplace was given to Theodosia Abell Wilson as a wedding present. For decades, the farm specialized in row crops such as cotton, corn and small grains. While the size of the farm has increased and cotton is still grown, everything else about the place has changed tremendously. These days, it’s a center of family fun in the Olde English District.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are now a main draw to the farm, with a u-pick season that begins with strawberries in April and continues with tomatoes, peaches, flowers and other produce all the way through to pumpkins in October. 

Patriarch Jeff Wilson is still involved in the farm, but most of the daily operations go to sons J.E.B. and Pete, both graduates of Clemson University, who came back to the farm with thoughts of making it more of a family-friendly destination. 

J.E.B. says that typical u-pick Saturdays in summer see close to 1,000 people on the farm, and special events such as hay rides, the Christmas Market and Farm & Tractor Day bring even more people than that, which is especially good for the farm considering those events are outside the peak growing season. The Christmas Market also brings in more than 60 vendors, so it’s beneficial for the area’s overall economy.

“We’ve found that families are often just looking for things to do in the area,” J.E.B. says. “We offer a great opportunity for families to get outside and enjoy some fresh air and time together, and then at the end of the day, they can take home some fresh produce.”

The farm operates three markets. The first, The Market, opened in Chester in 2002. It’s now open year-round while additional markets in Lowrys and Richburg close for the winter. About 20 people are employed by the markets and the farm hires 16 seasonal workers throughout the picking seasons.

But Cotton Hills Farm isn’t the only family-friendly destination in the Olde English District. In fact, several other area farms offer u-pick seasons and special events. J.E.B. adds that the area has fun events, like the Flopeye Fish Festival, and family destinations for adventure — such as Carowinds — and plenty of great outdoor recreation amid the many state parks. “As people who operate a farm,” J.E.B. says, “we just love to see folks outside and enjoying themselves.”