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Jaemor growing more than food
The Echols family plan to expand their popular produce market concept to Commerce by opening a second Jaemor Farm Market on U.S. 441.

Jaemor Farms is growing, and not just peaches.

The family-owned business is opening a satellite location in Commerce, near the intersection of Interstate 85 and U.S. 441 in Banks County. It’s the second store the family has started. The market near Lula opened in 1981.

The Echols family has farmed for more than 100 years, growing fruits and vegetables, such as peaches, strawberries and blackberries. They currently sell about 90 percent of what they grow at their store off Cornelia Highway in Hall County. The market and farm, which span hundreds of acres, attract visitors from across the state.

The new site will have the same open-air market atmosphere. The target audience is the tourists traveling on the highways and the local traffic, Jimmy Echols said. He bought the farm from his father in 1962.

Judah Echols, a co-owner who manages the bakery, said the family hopes within two years the additional store will increase sales by 25 percent. Many customers have told him they wish the market was closer to their house.

“We have found that the more that we can grow, the more customers will turn out for it,” Judah said. “The big movement of ‘Buy Local’ — people want to know where their food’s coming from and they want to know their farmer.”

The satellite is near Banks County’s main business district, said Brad Day, county economic developer and executive director of the local chamber of commerce. It’s also close to Tanger Outlets Mall.

“I think they saw the business opportunity and they took it,” Day said.

The building is two stories and needs some renovation. It’s 6,200 square feet with 2,000 square feet upstairs. The family plans to take out the walls in the front of the store and put in garage doors, similar to the main market.

“We’re going to try to make it look like a Jaemor Farms Market,” said Drew Echols, Jimmy’s grandson. “That’s what kind of sets us up apart from grocery stores.”

Drew manages the harvesting, planning and marketing for the farm.

Having two locations means selling more products directly to customers instead of going through wholesalers, the grandfather said. That enables the company to sell a wider variety of products and “we like the idea of serving people,” Jimmy said. “We like to talk to people.”

The farm adds more crops every year and bought about 86 acres last year to plant more watermelons and pumpkins. About 50 acres of the new land came from Habersham County. This winter, the Echolses will plant more peaches on the new acreage, and they hope to sell that produce at the new market.

“I’m optimistic about this building down here,” Drew said. “Hopefully it’ll be more than 100 baskets we can sell down here.”

They’ve been growing strawberries for about four years and that’s been a phenomenal hit, Drew said. The farm is growing more blackberries and has branched out into bunched grapes and wild grapes. Peaches were the main products when the market opened in 1981.

“It’s an expansion on all fronts,” Drew said.

Jaemor Farms is also stepping up the activities it offers. Along with an annual corn maze, the company is offering local schools agricultural education and farm field trips. Drew said the farm will offer fall and spring field trips that include lessons related to what students are learning in the classroom, such as math, science and physical education.

“With standards like they are, the teaching’s based on standards and testing. (We’ve) got to give (schools) a reason to come to Jaemor,” Drew said.

They close on the Banks County property Friday and expect to open the new market around July 15.

“It’s a big step for a family business,” Drew said.

Any thoughts of future expansion will have to wait until the new store is successful, Jimmy said.

“Our main thrust is food production,” he said. “That’s what we’re all thinking about all the time is producing food out there and doing a good job of that. And doing it in such a way that some of the family, if they desire to, can still be doing it 100 years from now.”

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