HWY. 160 West: Life in Fort Mill's fast lane

Country life is taking a back seat in that part of the township

Christopher CorradoAugust 13, 2008 

Mark Robinson harvests French crisp lettuce at Tega Hills Farm on Zoar Road.

For longtime residents living along or near the Hwy. 160 West corridor, the area's rapid development evokes a wide range of emotions.

Some, including one local farmer, say it's good for business. Others, such as Ruth Carroll, may not like it, but take it in stride. Then there are those who have had enough.

"If you have been here for as long as I have, you would remember this area when it was country, country, country," says Carroll, 85, a resident of Hwy. 160 West for 65 years.

She moved into her home on her 20th birthday, a time when she was surrounded by nothing but fields. Since then, apartments, businesses and subdivisions have eroded the country appeal.

"It's not country anymore, Carroll says. "I don't even feel safe. I don't know any of the new neighbors. There are not many of us left."

Despite her uneasiness, Carroll says she has gotten pretty stubborn over the years and does not plan to relocate unless she needs to move into an assisted living facility.

One of her neighbors, Barry Hucks, who owns a goat farm on Hwy. 160 West, is one resident who's had enough. After 51 years on the farm, he doesn't plan to stay too much longer.

"When I grew up this was a two-lane highway, and when you would pull out your driveway, no one was coming down the road," Hucks said. "Now, you have to wait 10 to 15 minutes before someone will let you out, and when motorcyclists rev their engines, it scares my goats."

Even with the difficulty of getting in and and out of his driveway, people are still coming to Hucks' farm to visit and feed his goats. Hucks is planning on moving toward a small town near Myrtle Beach with his wife and two kids.

"I don't want to mention the town I am interested in because I don't want a bunch of people moving there like here," he says.

Hucks says he doesn't have a buyer for his property, but he is planning on cutting back on his herd. He has about 35 goats and a few are already sold.

Another reason Hucks wants to move on, he says, is the economy. The price of feed keeps rising and a 50-pound bag of feed that used to cost less than $5 now sells for $9.50.

Just a couple of miles west, Michelle Bailes, a resident of Zoar Road, says all this development will eventually force her to move.

"More and more crime will come with the growth and our schools are great, but they are overcrowded," Bailes says.

Her son Tyler is about to enter the eighth grade at Gold Hill Middle School.

"There is too much traffic on this road,"Tyler agrees.

Tyler's mom designated a tree that Tyler is not to pass while he is in the front yard.

"I won't let my son go too close to the road because the cars are going too fast and there is no courtesy on the road," Michelle Bailes says. "The speed limit should be lowered from 45 to 35 due to a lot of wrecks on Zoar Road."

For Mark Robinson, however, traffic is good.

"We're not looking to move because the business is doing great," says Mark Robinson, co-owner of Tega Hills Farm on Zoar Road. He's seeing more customers, he believes, because of the recent tainted food scares.

"People want to know where their food comes from," Robinson says.

Robinson and his wife, Mindy, with the help of their children Aaron, Sarah and Martha, supply more than 30 Charlotte restaurants with produce, including lettuce, tomatoes and eggplant from the two-acre farm. The family has owned the property for about eight years.

"We make our living here. The farm pays the bills," Mindy Robinson says. "As long as the quality of the homes are good, we wouldn't mind if a subdivision was built across the street from us."

The fate of the other few remaining farms on Hwy. 160 West and surrounding areas has come into question.

"Farmers can adapt to the changes around them or they can sell [their property]," says Joseph Guthrie a livestock and agriculture agent at the York County Clemson Extension.

"A lot of the time developers will offer [so much] money [that it overcomes] the owners will to keep the land," Guthrie says.

"It's more of a personal decision."

Guthrie says the best course for farmers is to adapt to the population growth and increasing traffic.

He also suggests that newcomers to the area can slow down and be more responsible when they see farmers operating their vehicles on the road and otherwise show support for those holding on to a way of life that used to be the only way of life here.

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