City sees growth around area's oldest farm
As a child, Rodney Haggard remembers when the streets of Plano were very different from the roads bustling with traffic today. He remembers herding sheep down the road and driving a tractor on a street near Haggard Farm, where he grew up.
Today, Haggard Farm is one of the last and oldest operating farms in Plano and boasts acres of undeveloped land in the middle of a nearly built-out city. The farmland has become a battleground for developers in recent years as the family has slowly started to sell off parcels of the property.
The Haggard family moved from Kentucky to Texas in the mid-1800s and started the farm to grow wheat and cotton and raise sheep and cattle in 1884.
As part of the fourth generation of the family to grow up on the farm, Haggard learned to use most of the farm equipment at a young age.
Seeing crop dusters in the sky was a frequent sight for Haggard, and the streets were clear enough for him to ride his bike down the road. He said it seemed that everyone in the town knew each other.
"You couldn't do anything that anybody didn't know pretty quick," Haggard said. "We kind of took care of each other."
The city was still mainly a farm town with about 2,500 people in the 1950s, Haggard said.
It wasn't until the 1970s that Haggard started to see the city explode with development. In a 10-year period, Plano grew from less than 18,000 people to more than 72,000 people. Today, the city's population is more than 270,000.
But even while the city was growing around them, the Haggards held off on selling the farmland. Other properties the family owned were gradually sold, but the farm in the middle of Plano remained relatively undeveloped for decades after the 1970s.
Then in 2011, the Haggards announced that part of the farm would be sold for residential development. The land the Haggards sold is set to become the West Park Villas neighborhood as construction continues on the north end of the property.
Watching his childhood home become developed is a bittersweet experience for Haggard.
"It's really hard, and it's really satisfying, too," he said. "We take a lot of time to make sure that if we do sell [our land], it's [going to] someone who will do a real nice job for us."
Earlier this year, developer Visions5 claimed part of the farmland to build a 20-story residential tower that will anchor Haggard Farm. Despite the recent development, Haggard said he and his family have no immediate plans to sell any additional land parcels. Rather, Haggard would like to keep the farm in the family for as long as possible.
Today, about 120 acres of the farm remain. Cattle still graze on the pastures. The sheep are gone, but the llamas purchased to protect the sheep still roam the land.
The farm has been home for five generations of the family and a place, Haggard said, for "a lot of good memories for a lot of hard-working people."