As the responsibility of assuming ownership of a farm that has been in his family for hundreds of years sinks in, Andrew Mack Jr. said he is hitting the ground running and working to get up to speed on the farm’s operations.
Ownership of the farm was turned over from Andrew Mack Sr. to Andrew Mack Jr. last week, as reported in last week’s edition of the Londonderry Times.
Andrew Mack Jr. said he and his wife, Carol, plan to go in a different direction, but will be focusing on getting knowledgeable about the farm’s operations and listening to the thoughts of the farm’s staff during the transition period.
“Dad established a very strong management team that has 30 to 50 years experience managing the business and the books. They’re the backbone of the operation and they’re very strong, which has allowed us to step away at times,” said Mack, who considers his role at the helm of the operation as providing direction and vision for the family business, as well as encouraging the farm’s “very skilled staff.”
“We have very good staff. There’s incredible talent here,” he said. “A number of members of our staff are going to retire, so we will be talking about that. We will need to train and bring in new talent to take over. We are planning for the next generation of Macks – that’s a tall order.”
The Mack farm, established in 1731 by John Mack, who came to Londonderry from Londonderry, Ireland with his wife, Isabella Brown, has evolved over the years, but the farm’s legacy has survived under the leadership of what is now eight generations of Macks.
In 1962, Andrew C. Mack Sr. said his father incorporated Moose Hill Orchards when he was dividing the farm between himself and his sisters.
“When I came into the business, Moose Hill Orchards was hard to write on all the signs. And when people would call and I said, ‘Moose Hill Orchards,’ they would ask, is this Mack’s? I started answering the phone, ‘Mack’s Apples,’” Mack Sr. said.
While the nickname had the added benefit of being much easier to write on signage and promotional materials, the Macks recognize part of the farm’s appeal is the community’s appreciation for the family-oriented business and its long-standing tradition as a gathering place in Londonderry.
Under Mack Sr.’s leadership, the farm shifted its focus from wholesale to local retail.
“Starting a retail business, we have always tried to be really responsive to what the local public wants,” Mack said, noting the success of Mack’s Apples is also due to a little luck and a lot of hard work.
With his Bachelor of Science in Horticulture degree from the University of New Hampshire and 60 years of experience cultivating the farm’s orchards, the elder Mack has become an important authority on orchards in the region.
“I have always been interested in being modern and knowing best practices, and I have always been deeply involved in the industry,” he said.
The legacy has required of Mack, now in his 80s, a tremendous amount of dedication and perseverance.
“I have always felt this was a place I could develop skills I never thought I had,” Mack said. “It’s not the sort of business where you can just throw your hands up and sell it. The farm has tested me. It has been that sort of a relationship. So, I was delighted to turn it over to my family.”
In his retirement, Mack Sr. said he will continue to maintain his interest in the community, particularly with regard to improving paths that facilitate foot traffic to the center of Town.
Although he deeded most of the property to the Town to preserve the land’s agricultural use and prevent any chance of future development, Mack said he owns a small piece of land across the street from Matthew Thornton Elementary School in which he will maintain an interest.
“I will decide how much of that will be for the farm and how much for the needs of the Town,” he said. “It could be used for some sort of housing.”
Mack Jr., who has taken on the job of grooming the farm’s trails in the winter to allow patrons year-round access to enjoy the scenic property and has been in contact with the Londonderry Trailways to coordinate improving paths around the farm, said he is also excited to work with the Town moving forward.
Carol Mack, who retired from her post as Principal of Matthew Thornton School in 2013, said the change in ownership is a big step for both her husband and father-in-law, and said she plans to focus on supporting her family during the transition.
“I love talking to people and getting to know people. I will lend my support in any way I can being down at the farm and being a presence here,” she said. “We have had the joy of living in the farmhouse for 26 years, now. To look around and think we are assuming ownership of all of this is a bit overwhelming. Our kids have worked here at the farm stand and have grown up here.”
When asked if there are any ninth generation Macks interested in keeping the tradition of family ownership alive, Mack Jr. said he has a niece who has expressed a great deal of interest and may be moving to Londonderry to take on more responsibility at the family farm.
Moving forward, Andy and Carol said their focus will be on preserving the family business and long-standing traditions at Mack’s.
“It’s nice to have this opportunity to keep all this going, and we’re very dedicated to seeing all that through,” Mack Jr. said.
“We want to make sure we maintain this tradition so the next generation of Macks will have a solid place to come to,” Carol Mack said.