(Also, click here to follow along Mahockney’s “Underwood Trail” hiking/bridle path.)Over the years there has been a cycle of growth, decline, and revival in the grounds and gardens of Mahockney Plantation – not atypical for an ongoing farm that is centuries old and has outlasted wars and many recessions. Today, ancient magnolia, sycamore, and arbor vitae grace the house grounds surrounded by hardwood forest, a seven-acre pond, and working farmland.
In one exemplar period from the mid-twentieth century, Trent and Annie Lee Taliaferro redeveloped the farm and gardens after a long fallow period. The Essex County Historical Society wrote of their efforts years later:
“They set to work making their vision of Mahockney a reality. She had an artist’s eye for beauty and love and talent for creating it in all her surroundings. Her flower garden furnished blooms for her exquisite arrangements.”
[Meanwhile, the farm was put into high gear through a smart and aggressive adoption of modern agricultural science and techniques.]
“Trent planted 500 acres of watermelons and 300 acres of cantaloupes, California sweet red peppers, and citron melons for the market… Other crops which renewed the soil furnished food for animals, so expanding the pure-bred breeding stock into herds had become a major activity… Trent worked with the county agent to increase the practice of improved agricultural methods in Essex. He cooperated with the U.S. Soil Conservation Service, demonstrating and encouraging the use of newly proven techniques such as strip-cropping, contour plowing, cover seeding, and reforestation for greater yields and erosion control… In addition to his fine quality cattle, pigs, and sheep, Trent bred, raised, and trained horses and hunting dogs. He showed them at competitions, won many awards, and was in great demand himself as an expert judge. He conducted horsemanship classes at his own stables…” [Essex County Historical Society Newsletter, vol. 40 April 1994]