Acclaimed author, conservationist, and farmer Louis Bromfield was born in Mansfield in 1896. A graduate of the city's schools, he went on to study agriculture at Cornell University in 1914, but left in 1915 to help run his family's farm. In 1916, Bromfield enrolled in Columbia University to study journalism. As America entered World War I, he enlisted in United States Army Ambulance Service and saw action in seven major European battles. Determined to become a writer, Bromfield finished his education after the war and became a reporter. In 1921, he married Mary Appleton Wood and they would have three daughters. Bromfield's first published novel, the Green Bay Tree (1924), was a critical and commercial success: his third novel, Early Autumn, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1927. The Bromfields moved to France in 1925 where the lived until 1938. In all, he published thirty books and authored numerous stories, articles, and screenplays during his writing career.
The threat of war in Europe and Louis Bromfield's own desire to return to the land of his youth prompted him to purchase three farms here in Pleasant Valley in 1939. He named the estate Malabar Farm after the Malabar Coast of India, the setting of his 1937 book The Rains Came. Bromfield then set about to restore the land, putting into practice soil and water conservation techniques that later became widely influential. Devoted to educating farmers and the public about soil and water conservation, Bromfield hosted thousands of visitors at Malabar and expounded his ideas in speeches, columns, and over the radio. He also continued to write books, turning to non-fiction to share his experiences. Among these are Malabar Farm (1948) and Out of the Earth (1950). Bromfield died in 1956 and in the following years Malabar passed out of family ownership. Malabar Farm became a state park in 1976, demonstrating techniques that Bromfield put into practice.