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Since 1938

Newbern farmer Eric Maupin is passionate about the business that has sustained his family for four generations
Story and photos by: Sarah Geyer 12/3/2019


Eric Maupin is the fourth generation to farm the Newbern acreage his great-grandparents purchased in 1938.
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Eric Maupin’s story as the fourth generation to farm contiguous Dyer County land began in 1938, following the previous year’s devastating flood.

“My great-grandparents were part of the share croppers who farmed the bottoms close to the Mississippi River in 1937,” says Eric. “Back then, people couldn’t go to the bank and borrow money without collateral.  The federal government offered a program to allow people who were displaced from the flood to apply for government-backed loans to buy land.”

Dewey Maupin and his family purchased farmland on higher ground in Newbern. His son, Joe Calvin, continued to build the family farming business until 1968 when grandson, Larry, took on the responsibility of running the Maupin Farms operation.

The 1970s were happy times for Larry and his wife, Joan. During that era, the couple was blessed with two sons, Stefan and Eric, and farming provided a comfortable living for the family. The next decade turned those carefree days into distant memories.

“The ’80s were tough for everyone,” says Eric, citing the drop of commodity prices below the cost of production and two droughts. “I remember that time vividly. Stefan and I went from everything on the place being brand new – trucks, tractors, combine – to a period where we thought our dad was going to sell us! I can joke about it now, but those experiences were really tough. I commend farmers like my father who did whatever it took to stay in business.”

Larry and Joan didn’t have the opportunity to go to college, but they were determined to provide it for their sons.

“Both of us knew that we were expected to go to college, get an education, and work off the farm before we could think about coming back,” said Eric. “I may be putting words in my parents’ mouths, but I think they had to make farming work in the ’80s because they didn’t think they had a back-up plan. That’s why they wanted us to have that option.”

 Stefan accepted a position with the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation after college. A few years later, Eric graduated from the University of Tennessee Martin and joined the Tennessee Department of Agriculture as the International Marketing Coordinator.

Three years later, in 2000, Larry shared with his sons that he had decided to semi-retire and give up his rental land. The choice was obvious, says Eric, who was a 25-year-old bachelor, while Stefan had an established career and a family.

“I figured if I was ever going to give farming a try, now was the time,” says Eric. “I also knew that if I didn’t go back and give it a try, the family farm could cease to exist, and I’d regret it for the rest of my life.’”

 Not long after Eric returned to the farm, Larry accepted a job as manager of a local


“He told me, ‘I’ve farmed my whole life. Now that you’re here, I want to do something different,’” says Eric. “He did that for 10 years, but I sure am happy that he’s retired from there and back here helping me.”

Today, Eric and his wife, Joann, have three daughters: Cara, 10, Chloe, 7, and Camille, 19 months. The farm has grown from 1,200 acres to more than 3,000. On most of the land, Eric raises corn, soybeans, and wheat, but he also has 60 mama cows, a number that at one time reached 150.

“Most people are surprised that I’m raising cattle in West Tennessee,” he says. “I like cattle, but I don’t raise them for sentimental reasons. Some of our land is just better suited for livestock. That’s why we do it.”

From day one, Eric has been vigilant in managing his farming business.

“I pay myself a salary, and I do that on purpose to keep my business separate from my home,” says the Gibson Farmers Cooperative member. “As a farmer, I have to always know what my consumers want, what the market is doing, and be ready to change accordingly. I can’t get comfortable or set in my ways if I’m going to keep this farm running into the next generation.”

Eric is passionate about sharing the role farmers play in the local business community, and he proudly serves on the Dyer County Chamber of Commerce.

“Our chamber is one of the few in the state of Tennessee that sees agriculture as a viable business,” says Eric. “Most chambers will do a big celebration of a small business in their county that has been in business for 30 to 40 years. My family has been in business on the same piece of land since 1938, and I’m betting that we, like the majority of family farms across the state, employ more people and pay more taxes than most little downtown shops. 

“It’s time we farmers get out of our offices in the offseason and scream from the mountaintops that we deserve to be seen as viable small businesses in our communities.”

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