When you pull into the new Fancy Farms Market on Drane Field Road, you aren’t just strolling up to another farmer’s market. You’re walking into a piece of the Grooms’ family legacy.
As the sun casts its beams across rows of neatly planted strawberries, families gather around a wooden table to sip on their fresh strawberry milkshakes and fight over a bag of sweet strawberry cookies. Kristi Grooms, daughter of Fancy Farms founders Carl and Dee Dee Grooms, was chatting with new arrivals over a flat of berries that were picked that morning.
She gestures toward the field beside them and with a laugh walks the curious family into one of the rows. Bending over, she points out the different parts of the plant, showing how the sweet berries bloom from the delicate flowers scattered among the plants. The family expected to pop in and grab a milkshake and some produce and leave. Instead they were gifted something unexpected: decades worth of memories, industry knowledge and an inside look at what local strawberry farmers do to bring the crop to life. It’s a memory they likely won’t forget and a large part of why — despite only being open for a month — many customers have become frequent visitors to the market.
Kristi Grooms’ father Carl Grooms and her mom Dee Dee Grooms started the now-legendary farm in 1974 with 15 acres of strawberries. Now her brother Dustin Grooms runs the operation and makes sure their berries continue to reach the homes of strawberry fanatics far and wide.
Dustin Grooms was determined to take their family legacy into the next generation and Kristi Grooms decided to throw her hat in the ring and bring a long-time dream of theirs to life. The Fancy Farms Market is something the siblings and their parents have wanted to make a reality for years. However, there never was an opportunity to pull off something of this magnitude. Kristi built her career in marketing and advertising and decided it was time to come home after 18 years in the industry.
Under her lead, they transformed the small produce stand into a full-blown operation. You can purchase produce, strawberry plants, milkshakes, shortcakes, strawberry bread, and strawberry cookies with much more on the horizon. The menu evolves with the season and there will soon be Fancy Farms merchandise so you can rep a piece of the farm in your own home.
“Mom and Dad built a brand here, they built a legacy,” Kristi Grooms said. “Dustin and I wanted to take that legacy and that brand and further it. We wanted to make sure that we kept it going. There was something missing in my life when I was working in my former career and I realized that it was this, it was my family. We are taking what my parents have built and we are continuing it. Dustin is working on the farm every day and I’m working here. These recipes are my mom’s. The produce is all local. You’re stepping into our family when you walk in and I’m so excited to help bring this to life.”
The cafe at the market features a small but cherished menu. The items featured are some of Dee Dee Grooms’ famous recipes and are made fresh each day for customers.
Dustin Grooms admitted farming is a challenging lifestyle, but one he wouldn’t ever dream of walking away from. He said he’s excited for this next chapter in their family’s history and hopes people are able to walk away from the market with both superior produce and some new knowledge on the importance of supporting local farming.
“When you shop local it means the area you are at, the state you are in and the country you live in,” Dustin Grooms said. “Supporting those local farms, that has a larger impact than most people ever realize. It affects more people’s lives than you can ever imagine. You’re supporting families who in turn support their communities. We have to make sure we preserve farming in this country and don’t import all of our produce, which sadly is becoming more and more common. We don’t want to ever be reliant on other countries to feed us.”
The Grooms family has decades of farming knowledge at its fingertips and is always happy to answer the questions of those who are curious for a peek behind the curtain. However, if you simply want to come for a sweet treat and to relax beside the strawberry fields, Dustin Grooms has two simple suggestions: the perfect mid-morning snack is a fresh strawberry cookie and nothing hits the spot quite like a cold strawberry milkshake when the afternoon is warming up.
Strawberries are in season, so the menu is currently themed to reflect that. Once the season ends, Kristi Grooms said it will reflect the next crop (more than likely blackberries) before the market closes for the summer. It will reopen again in the fall. The goal is to eventually expand to add sandwiches to the menu for local industry workers who clock in at the warehouses on County Line Road. The market will be open year-round when that is added, but Kristi Grooms said the goal is to expand slowly, perfecting each addition as it comes.
The focus on local produce also acts as an incentive for customers who wish to support local, but struggle to do so in grocery stores. Kristi Grooms pointed at the different vegetables on display and named the farmers she bought them from, sharing stories on their farms’ histories as she went.
She added that she hopes when people visit they walk away enthralled by the family atmosphere they’ve worked hard to create at the market. Its more than just a produce stand and kitchen: it’s an invitation into the Fancy Farms family.
“When you come you get to know us, we get to know you,” Kristi Grooms said. “I have to say the best thing about this so far has been the repeat customers we have had. You know, on this side of town there really isn’t anything like this. So these customers are coming and they have so many questions about how strawberries are grown. My family has always supported agritourism and agriculture education, so we are always excited to get the chance to spread some knowledge on how this industry works. Then those customers leave and come back with their children and grandchildren. I have been blown away by how many new families I’ve gotten to know. I know their names and they know mine, it’s just been such a wonderful and unexpected part of this journey.”
Fancy Farms Market
Where: 5204 Drane Field Road
Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday – Saturday. Closed Sundays
Purchase: Produce, shakes, shortcake and baked goods
Social: Follow Fancy Farms on Instagram and Facebook @fancyfarmsinc