The family farm is back!
The Story of Mahaffey Farms
by Evan McCommon
The story of my family farm starts somewhere around 1927 when H.H. Mahaffey began purchasing land in Bossier Parish around the town of Princeton, Louisiana just five miles outside Bossier City. After a successful career in the oil industry he and his wife Nora decided to settle down. We really don’t know the details of why he chose to settle here and start farming, but he certainly left a legacy that still lives on and benefits our family to this day.
My great-uncle “Happy”, as he was known, was an ambitious man that was well known and liked throughout the community. Growing up, I have always enjoyed hearing the stories about uncle Happy and this farm and all of different enterprises he had going.
Up until the 1950’s this farm was the center of family life and an important part of the community. Happy employed many local men throughout the different seasons for many jobs on the farm. There were more than two hundred head of cattle, an orchard, sawmill, goats, poultry, pigs, vegetables, and a large haying operation.
“He was into just about everything”, as my ninety two year old aunt Marie still tells it. “We even had electric lights from a Delco battery plant back before the REA came out here.” We all still enjoy hearing Marie tell us the stories from back when this farm was in full swing.
Uncle Happy died in 1953 from a sudden illness. Upon his death the care and management of the farm fell on the shoulders of his widow Nora. Nora and Happy were never able to have children so she had only her two sisters and their small family to rely on for help. Over the years, as the responsibility and circumstances proved too much to handle. She gradually sold off the livestock and equipment. The pastures and fences went into a state of disrepair and decay. Eventually the pine trees took over and the property became forest.
Although she couldn’t handle the intensity of running such a busy farm on her own, Aunt Nora did have a strong belief in conservation and she worked hard to preserve the land as best she could for the sake of future generations.
Nora Mahaffey passed away in 1992 leaving the Mahaffey estate to her sister Marie Trosclair who then created a family trust to keep the land whole for the greater benefit of generations to come. Since 1995, I have been managing the property by focusing primarily on timber production, conservation, and wildlife management. Through the years we experienced success through our conservative timber management practices and land developement.
Now we enter a new era for the farm… around 2008 – 2009, downturns in the economy and dips in timber markets have caused concerns. I was given reason to investigate other enterprises that would compliment our current land management practices and give the land alternative income sources. We have also as a family been frustrated with the local food system and the lack of options for clean, “organic” food. Having traveled the country some over the years we had seen the local food movement growing strong in other cities and longed to see more clean local food available our area… Another realization was that our farm has never been farmed using industrial agricultural. During the years of intensive chemical fertilizers and pesticides this farm has been dormant, waiting…
So, now with the help and support of my family, I have begun to resurrect the dreams and ambitions of uncle Happy’s legacy. I am rebuilding this farm to its former beauty and productivity using the knowledge and technology of today and the wisdom and sensibilities of the past. There has never been a better time for Mahaffey Farms to make its comeback!
Back in 2010-2011 I began the serious planning and by the spring 2012 Mahaffey Farms made its first sales at the local farmers markets with warm receptions from our customers. We started with chemical-free vegetables and plan to be expanding at an aggressive pace each year and season. Our future plans already in the works include pastured pork, poultry, eggs, and grass finished beef. We are also excited about offering custom lumber from our sawmill as well as firewood and other small-scale forest products.
I am excited about the years to come… I can’t wait to see the stories from my childhood come to life again.