Sponsored by Oregon Business

Farm futures: private equity goes organic

| Print |  Email
Articles - May 2013
Monday, April 29, 2013


0513 FarmFutures 01
Farmer and Ph.D. biologist Jason Bradford takes a pasture-based approach to agriculture that puts livestock back on medium-size farms.
// Photo by Eric Näslund

While farmers may dream of rain showers on demand and lush pastures generating bumper crops, their nightmares are generally financial. Farmland LP, a private equity fund in Oregon, is upending the traditional (some would say dysfunctional) financial model that leads to those nightmares while practicing sustainable, organic and pasture-based farming methods to boot.

In spite of Oregon’s surplus of young farmers armed with optimism and a desire to work in agriculture, farming in 2013 is roughly divided between conventional, large-scale commodity crop farms that tend to get financing and subsidies, and smaller, sometimes struggling family-style farming operations that don’t. In addition, though organic cultivation entered the farming picture over three decades ago, conversion of land to organic is happening at a slower rate than demand for organic products, according to Cathy Greene of the USDA’s Economic Research Service. Add to this the advanced average age of the American farmer (59), and the rising costs of fuel and fodder, and it is a potent recipe for agricultural stagnation.

Farmland LP, the brainchild of farmer and Ph.D. biologist Jason Bradford and financial manager Craig Wichner, aims to break out of this paradigm and find a middle ground. Farmland is neither a typical agricultural farm venture nor a conventional financial instrument. It is a 4-year-old private equity fund based in both Oregon and California, with almost 90 investors, and is on its way to amassing $50 million in capital.

Instead of the typical U.S. model, in which larger acreages are passed on through family inheritance or owned by corporations, Farmland is two managers using investor funds to purchase conventional mid-size farms in both Oregon (around 1,000 acres thus far) and California (5,300 acres). Once converted to certified organic acreage, Farmland’s holdings are put into a newfangled land-management system that is actually based on a more old-fashioned rotation of plots between growing pasture, grazing livestock and cultivating different crops in order to boost soil fertility without chemical fertilizers. And unlike the one-man-one-tractor model of agriculture, in which a few farmers work vast swathes of land in monocrops, or the sustainable farm ideal in which a farmer takes a small patch of ground and coaxes multiple foods from it, Farmland’s model is novel. Different farming experts will ply their trades on the same plots of ground as these pieces of land are moved through rotation.


More Articles

Planter's Punch

November/December 2015
Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Molly Rogers believes she has found the solution to excessively syrupy cocktail mixes. She first just needs people to understand her product isn’t foliage.


Let it Rain

October 2015
Monday, September 28, 2015

This year has been so dry we were caught napping when it finally started to sprinkle. Hopefully you didn’t get caught in a downpour while eagerly awaiting — don’t deny it — our curation of Oregon-grown wet weather wear.


Reader Input: In or Out

October 2015
Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The refugee crisis has put immigration and border issues on the front burner, in Europe and at home. In Oregon, attitudes toward illegal immigration haven’t changed dramatically since 2006.


Video: 100 Best Nonprofits to Work For in Oregon 2015

The Latest
Monday, October 05, 2015
100-best-NP-logo-2015-video-thumbVIDEO BY JESSE LARSON

Profiling some of the organizations featured in the 2015 list.


Big Geek

October 2015
Monday, September 28, 2015

To attract technology companies, the U.S. Bancorp Tower repositions itself as open, light and playful.


Reader Input: Made in Oregon

November/December 2015
Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Two trends dominate the manufacturing sector: onshoring and the rise of small-scale production manufacturing, known as the "maker economy."


Photo Log: #TillamookSmile

The Latest
Friday, October 30, 2015
103015-cheesethumbBY CHRIS NOBLE | ART DIRECTOR

Against a changing backdrop Patrick Criseter’s infectious grin remained constant. It’s a cheesy (pun intended) beam that begs for a hashtag.

Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02