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COOPER FARMS, 24000 PEACH TREES AND 400 SODA POPS FROM AROUND THE WORLD

Every summer Cooper Farms has set up a fruit stand in Conroe. First at the Outlet Mall and later at the Woodbury Community Gardens at 2600 Longmire. Woodbury Community Gardens has been around since 2010 providing fresh eggs from their over 300 laying hens, to citrus trees. Woodbury is open year round but the Cooper Peach Stand is only open during season.

Cooper Peaches come from Fairfield, Texas just up I-45 near the 198 mile marker, about 100 miles north of Conroe.

In 1970 a twelve year old Tim Cooper and his family moved from Dallas to Fairfield, because his father had accepted a job offer to become the first personnel manager for TXU’s Big Brown Steam Electric Station. Once in Fairfield Tim soon found himself working at Fairfield Farms. Fairfield Farms was started by the late Ralph K. Alexander, whom originated from Houston. Mr. Alexander quickly became Timmy’s mentor, and shared his knowledge of peaches and farming with him. Ever year during high school Tim would spend his summers working at Fairfield Farms. After Mr. Alexander sold Fairfield Farms to Duncan McCoy, Tim stayed on as a manager throughout his college aged years

In 1978 Tim planted his first peach orchard; it was planted on Lover’s Lane right outside of Fairfield City Limits. At the time Tim was attending college at Texas A&M. Tim and Kathy also met in 1978 when Kathy moved to Fairfield, where she was also an employee of Fairfield Farms. Kathy had grown up in Guadalajara, Mexico, the daughter of a missionary. She moved back to the United States in her teens and graduated from Los Fresnos High School in the Rio Grande Valley. Upon graduating from high school Kathy’s brother in law, Joe Hancock, invited her to live in Fairfield with her and her sister April. He had told Kathy about Fairfield Farms, which was located across the street from their house. Kathy thought it would be a convenient place to work, applied for the job, and was hired. Kathy worked there every summer between semesters at Stephen F. Austin University. During those summers Kathy and Tim were coworkers, and eventually became good friends. Their friendship quickly turned into romance and in 1983 they were married with a home in Fairfield.

Tim had started a fence business the year they married and Kathy had gone to work for Texas Utilities Mining Company a few months before as a secretary, and later as one of the maintenance technicians assigned to the Cross Pit Spreader System. So while they both had a day job, they spent their evenings and weekends working on their, then 8 acre, orchard. They did all the farm labor they could do by themselves but they hired a few people to help them out from time to time. At the time all of their peaches were sold roadside at the corner of an intersection off of Interstate-45, next to where Sam’s Restaurant is located today.

Back then Kathy would drive the truck to the stands in the mornings and stay there until she had no more peaches to sell. When she sold out she would take the truck back to the farm, and if their were customers at the stand when she sold out, they would simply follow her back to the farm to get their peaches. At the farm Tim would replenish the truck with more peaches he had just picked, and Kathy would head back to the roadside stand in hopes of selling out again. Since Tim and Kathy were both still working jobs during the week, they hired a college student home for the summer to sell whatever peaches they picked during the week. On the weekends Kathy would be responsible for working the peach stand. Today the roadside peach stand on the corner of Exit 197 is a permanent fixture.

As the business increased Tim took all the money he made from the fence business, and used to acquire more land and trees. He also added more roadside stands. There were now roadside peach stands in Corsicana, Madisonville, and Huntsville. Things were going well until the peaches suffered a late freeze, and Tim and Kathy were without a crop. They realized if they were going to survive as farmers they would need to diversify their crops, but where uncertain on exactly what crops to grow. They happened to meet some growers at a conference who were growing greenhouse tomatoes. After carefully researching greenhouse tomatoes, they decided that it was something they wanted to do. In 1989 they started growing greenhouse tomatoes.

1990 was a year of many firsts. They picked their first tomato from their first greenhouse. They also started a family with the birth of their first child, Ben. 1990 was the year their farm was also officially named “Cooper Farms”. After their daughter Elizabeth was born, Kathy made the decision that she wanted to stay home to be with the children. Tim and Kathy worked together to make it possible for Kathy to stay at home with the kids. By the time Ben started school, Kathy was able to leave her job at TXU. In 1998 Tim was able to sell out his partnership in his fence business and devote his time completely to farming.

Up to this time, the Coopers had sold everything they grew strictly at their roadside stands. The Coopers enjoyed selling their peaches at their roadside stands because of the direct contact they were able to have with their customers and not having to go through a middle man. They had developed many friendships throughout the years with their regular roadside peach stand customers. As far as Tim and Kathy were concerned, they believed their roadside stands were the best and only way to market their peaches. At the time grocery stores were becoming more aware of the need to provide local produce in their stores. Tim and Kathy were initially approached by H-E-B about the possibility of having their peaches in the new Central Market stores in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Tim planted more trees to meet the increase in demand. Tim wanted to continue selling roadside but still be able to supply Central Market with the local produce they needed. Over time Tim and the orchard acclimated to provide the supply for the new increase in demand for their peaches and tomatoes. Tim and Kathy were soon invited to sell their peaches at other roadside stands as well.

Today Cooper Farms continues to sell at their roadside stands in many towns along the Interstate 45 corridor. Cooper Farms has also opened a gourmet travel stop at Exit 198 where they sell home-made pie, home-made ice cream, farm fresh fruits and vegetables, and gas at low prices! The Coopers send peaches to Houston, Dallas, and Austin with a variety of outlets, which include H-E-B, Central Market, Whole Foods, and many smaller stores. All of these grocery stores play an equally important part in providing Cooper Farms peaches, blackberries, plums, etc. to Cooper Farms beloved customers.

As Tim and Kathy reflect on the past 33 years, they are amazed and humbled at what has been accomplished with the small talents they were given. They know it all happened (the marriage, the peach operation, and the family) because of hard work and persistence and determination to achieve their goals, and never giving up on each other. The Coopers have encouraged each other to never give up and persist even when things got tough or seemed impossible. It is only through their faith in God and the faith that their family, friends, and customers, have had in them that the Coopers have “grown” to what they are today. It  is the Cooper’s hope that when you stop to purchase a Cooper Farms product from a Cooper Farms truck, the Cooper Farms Country Store, or a Cooper Farms display in your local grocery store, that you will realize how much they have enjoyed “growing” for you.

Kathy and Tim retired recently and the farm including the 24,000 peach trees covering 350 acres is now cared for by their children Ben and Elizabeth. With the store in Fairfield Ben was able to bring another passion to life, soda water. Were not talking the local stuff but from around the world. He has stocked the store with over 400 different bottled soda waters. Some even from Hawaii and Australia. One of the oldest is Moxie and is the only one actually listed in Webster’s Dictionary.  Moxie’s flavor is unique, as it is not as sweet as most modern soft drinks and is described by some as bitter. Moxie is flavored with gentian root extract, an extremely bitter substance which was reputed to possess medicinal properties. It originated around 1876 as a patent medicine called “Moxie Nerve Food”.Another favorite is Coco Fiz which tastes like a Tootsie Pop right out of the bottle. Most are from mom and pop bottlers around the nation.  They also stock different salsas which they make and bottle. The Root Beer Floats are awesome and they even have the corner on the ice cream market with a peach ice cream they make.

In the orchards there are several masts which look like a helicopter blade on top. They are powered by a gas engine and sit in strategic locations across the orchards. When a a early Spring frost is predicted the engines are fired up. The rotor blades create a 15 mph wind across the orchards. By doing this it brings the warmer air down to prevent frost on the trees. Several varieties of peaches are grown including yellow, white, even donut peaches. Also grown are white nectarines, yellow nectarines, plums, apricots, blackberries, tomatoes, and watermelons.

To visit the store drive IH-45 north to the 198 mile marker at Fairfield. Go across the freeway and you will see The Cooper Market on the left.

They do also ship across the United States and offer free shipping on orders over $55.

 

COOPER FARMS FACEBOOK-LIKE AND STAY UP TO DATE ON WHEN PEACHES WILL BE BACK IN CONROE AND HUNTSVILLE-CLICK HERE

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