Sponsored by Lane Powell

Farm futures: private equity goes organic

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

At Farmland’s 1,000-acre Corvallis farm, the sense of passionate engagement on the part of Bradford and his current tenant-farmer partners is palpable. He is slightly professorial, ready to deeply discuss soil fertility, portable henhouse design or the life cycle of lichens, all in the space of two hours. At Farmland, Bradford’s primary role is land management, and he uses Google Earth to demonstrate to his visitor how organizing land rotations is a bit like laying a puzzle, with some pieces functioning as paddocks for nibbling sheep, others as home ground for hundreds of laying hens in their portable henhouses, some lying fallow or growing new pasture grass (and grass seed), and others fostering grain or veggie crops.

Bradford says Oregon was the perfect place for Farmland to start looking for land back in 2009-2010, as the bursting of the housing bubble caused the state’s grass-seed and nursery industries to suffer setbacks (the Corvallis main acreage is a former grass-seed farm).

Part of Farmland’s attraction for investors is the focus on pastured production on a larger scale than what sustainable agriculture has been able to achieve. One of the most famous sustainable farm operations, Joel Salatin’s Polyface farm in Virginia, is 500 acres. One thousand acres is Bradford’s idea of a good start size.

Part of Farmland’s model hinges on finding farmers willing to lease with Farmland LP rather than own their own land. Those farmer-partners the company is now working with insist the deal is a good one. Karen Wells and her husband, Neal, spent four years searching for an Oregon property from which to launch their pastured poultry operation. As Neal was an accountant by trade, the pair was able to realistically run the numbers when assessing prospective land purchases. “We had the ability to do the financial analysis,” Karen says, “but the math never worked.” Karen says her family’s process made the ideal of land ownership less attractive.

“We know too many family farms going under … the next generation is not necessarily interested in farming, there’s a profit problem, etc.,” she says. “Now there are farmers out there saying to us, ‘But you are not going to own the land,’ and I say, ‘Exactly. It’s an albatross.’”

After realizing that farmers like the Wells also need seed money, Bradford and Wichner went back to their investor group and formed a separate LLC called Vitality Farms to invest in both livestock and product innovation on Farmland acreage.


More Articles

Have a baby and keep a job? It won’t be easy in Portland

The Latest
Friday, October 02, 2015
100115kimblogthumbBY KIM MOORE

Our intrepid (and expecting) research editor finds the child care search involves long waiting lists, costly fees and no certainty of securing a place before she goes back to work.



September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Ben Kaiser holds his ground.


Cream of the Crop

October 2015
Monday, September 28, 2015

Bill Levy of Pacific Ag talked to Oregon Business about new residue markets, the company’s growth strategy and why a biofuel plant is like a large cow.


Aim High

September 2015
Thursday, August 20, 2015

We get the education we deserve.


Social media transforming sports business

The Latest
Thursday, September 24, 2015

The traditional model of sports teams using paid media to get their message across is disappearing as teams look instead to social media to interact with fans.


Car be gone

Linda Baker
Thursday, August 06, 2015
070615car2goblogthumbBY LINDA BAKER

Car and ride sharing services have taken urban areas by storm. Low-income and suburban communities are left at the curb.


Counterpoint: CLT not as green as people think

Contributed Blogs
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
photo-flickr-glasseyes viewthymbBY GREGG LEWIS | OP-ED

The issue of green-washing remains a significant challenge to those of us who would like to see the building sector in this country do more than make unverifiable claims of sustainability. Transparency about the impacts of a given material is the only way to allow designers to make intelligent choices when selecting building products.

Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02