The October edition of Like a Boss is coming straight from the farm.
Host Sean Green is sitting down with Evan McCommon, owner of Mahaffey Farms, to talk about his movement to Cultivate the 318.
Sean and Evan are coming from Mahaffey’s Farm Stand, which is an old country club house that was flipped to where the public can buy products that were raised right on the farm. Looking ahead, McCommon has plans for building an actual farm stand on the highway. He hopes to open it some time next year.
“That’s one of the main reasons we bought this property. Building a small stand or shop close to the road was in the plan,” he said.
McCommon expanded the farm by purchasing land that was the Eastwood Fairways golf/country club in Haughton. The club went out of business around three years ago, and he had been looking for a piece of land that would connect their farm in Princeton to Highway 80 with frontage and access.
“You’d be surprised how many people don’t know there’s a farm where you can buy beef, pork, chicken and seasonal vegetables right here in Bossier Parish. Just having a sign on the road would be a big deal,” McCommon said.
Mahaffey Farms is actually a family farm that was started in the 1930s primarily for timber. That has forced McCommon to repurpose the land, which was made a little easier with the new property already having irrigation infrastructure
“This farm farmed mostly timber and I was trying to convert it to pasture, but it wasn’t smooth like a pasture. That golf course was smooth and allowed us the infrastructure to grow food,” he said.
The notion of a local family farm that sell goods produced out back seems like a blast from the past, but their mission is one that McCommon feels very strongly about.
“My wife and I were interested in finding local, sustainable food. I noticed at local farmers markets there were a lot of farms from Texas, but no one in our area was growing things. I had been managing timber for 20 years and we had this land base and I wondered what types of crops we could grow. From that, I got into the different Southern ecosystems and that led me to a rotational grazing method to move animals and mimic nature.”
He learned about regenerative farming methods and began using a rotational model to raise their animals.
“The technology is there and the research has been done to where we can grow crops and animals more sustainably. My first lesson here was gardening. We’ve had to really inject a lot of organic matter to feed the soil,” McCommon said.
He’s also learned about direct sales and how to identify what his customers want.
“I was seeing a need for local, sustainable/organic food. I was passionate about organic foods but it means we ended up with some expensive food. It was very difficult for our neighbors to adapt to a $20 chicken. So we adapted to have our red label and added our blue and green labels. That’s allowed us to offer our chicken at $2.99,” McCommon said. “We don’t want to be an elitist type farm out of reach of the consumer.”
He says he still considers himself a startup business. He is still learning and experimenting, while trying to stay relevant.
“When I started, we were in the boom phase of the farmer’s market trend. We’ve been riding a decline of enthusiasm since we got into the market. The mechanics were easy for me, the difficult part is the marketing. Everyone agrees we have the best sausage in the area, but we don’t just sell sausage. We have to sell the whole pig because we raise the whole pig. So I’ve had to be more creative in how I market. There’s so much you have to pay attention to and make sure people don’t forget we’re here.”
And while he could have started a farm anywhere, the thought of leaving Bossier to start his business never crossed McCommon’s mind.
“I grew up here, I never considered leaving. It’s home. I lived in different parts of Bossier and Shreveport. But every weekend I was at the farm. A lot of folks grow up and want to leave,” he said.
And at the end of the day, McCommon says he constantly finds joy in his work.
“I see some pretty amazing stuff throughout the day. It’s punctuated by working in the rain and it’s a big responsibility when you have hundreds of animals depending on you. So I take time to stop and recognize when it’s a good moment.”
Mahaffey Farms is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, offer tours every Saturday to let the public see how they raise their animals and crops, and educate the public on their methods.
“We’re focused on northwest Louisiana agriculture. What fruits and trees we can grow with this soil and this climate. Fifth event and every year we highlight a different cultural food type and host it here. Most family friendly event with our animals for people to meet and pet.”
You can buy Mahaffey Farms products at the farm stand store, local retailers like Sunshine Health Foods and Vitamins Plus, and by home delivery on Tuesday and Thursdays.
Check out last month’s Like a Boss with Crystal Lauve of Lauve’s Pediatric Day Health Care.