Farm futures: private equity goes organic

| Print |  Email
Articles - May 2013
Monday, April 29, 2013
0513 FarmFutures 02 
After 4 years of searching, Neal (left) and Karen Wells (center) found a home at Jason Bradford's (right) Corvallis-based Farmland LP location.
// Photo by Eric Näslund

Bradford and Wichner met in 2008 at a peak oil and gas conference, and quickly realized they had similar beliefs about the economy’s debilitating dependence on raw materials, whose price is rising as their scarcity increases.

“I was a small organic vegetable farmer frustrated by lack of access to capital, lack of access to land and lack of the ability to mix and integrate farming practices I thought were important,” 43-year-old Bradford explains. “I needed someone to help me buy a big farm so that I could put all my ideas together.”

At the same time, financial analyst Wichner was a new father searching for ways to truly create a sustainable future. When Bradford explained his goal of trying old-time, small farming methods on a larger piece of land, Wichner grasped the way rotational pasture-based farming might be a growth opportunity. Wichner could also see that the two partners needed to think beyond a single farm.

“Craig looked at the idea and said, ‘You don’t make a one-off, where you are the one precious example. You make it a model and you make it replicable.’”

Farmland’s model is to take time to convert conventional land to certified-organic, pasture-based production in order to get organic’s price premium, and they are counting on tenant farmers — whether sheep, chicken or veggie farmers, or producers of wheat, alfalfa or hay — to be able to pay a percentage of their profit to lease Farmland land.

Farmland’s is also a model where tenant farmers are specialized in their area of production but are long-term renters who will be moved around as the rotational model requires. These farmers, Farmland hopes, will do well because they get the benefit of pastured land where soil fertility is increasing year after year, and where input costs — for fertilizer and chemicals — will be lower. What Farmland farmers won’t have is the crushing overhead of a too-high mortgage, or the problem of trying to access expansion money in today’s hard-to-borrow financial environment.

“If you are a young farmer and want to diversify on 40 or 60 acres,” Bradford says, “the overhead cost on each unit of production ends up being very high. You can only have so many sheep, the cost of equipment for managing those sheep is high, and your intellectual capital — well, how good can you be in sheep while also trying to do chickens, veggies, grains?”

Bradford says this is the reason, along with difficult financing, that the idealized model of diversified and sustainable farms hasn’t spread in the United States.



 

More Articles

European Vacation

Guest Blog
Thursday, April 23, 2015
norristhumbBY JASON NORRIS | GUEST BLOGGER

There are winners and losers with a strengthening U.S. dollar.


Read more...

Editor’s Note: It’s a Man’s World

Linda Baker
Thursday, April 30, 2015
lindablogthumbBY LINDA BAKER | EDITOR

Earlier this week we posted an article from our May issue:  It’s a Man's Man’s Man’s World. The story covered the gender divide in tech from the perspective of male workers. Twitter didn’t like it.


Read more...

Footloose

April 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER

Founded 12 years ago, Keen Inc. likes to push the envelope, starting with the debut of the “Newport” closed toe sandal in 2003. Since then, the company has opened a factory on Swan Island and a sleek new headquarters in the Pearl District. The brand’s newest offering, UNEEK, is a sandal made from two woven cords and not much more.


Read more...

Make the Case

May 2015
Monday, April 27, 2015

10 briefcases that mean business.


Read more...

5 questions about the FLIR FX

The Latest
Wednesday, April 08, 2015
FLIR-FX-IndoorBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

The Wilsonville-based company is targeting GoPro enthusiasts with its latest release. Is spy gear poised to go mainstream?


Read more...

6 highlights from the Craft Brewers Conference

The Latest
Friday, April 17, 2015
thumbPHOTOS BY  JASON E. KAPLAN

The 32nd annual CBC attracted a record number of attendees (11,000)  to the Oregon Convention Center.


Read more...

Oregon Business expands events portfolio

The Latest
Friday, March 27, 2015
htctfacebookBY OB STAFF

New events series brings magazine to life.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS