The Clewiston News

Gladstone Land buys farms

Gladstone Land Corp., a publicly traded real estate investment trust actively buying up farmland across the United States, announced in July that it has acquired five farms in South Florida totaling 5,630 acres for about $37.4 million.

According to a July 16 news release from the corporation’s office in McLean, Va., Gladstone then entered into a multi-year lease with a leading agricultural operation to use the tracts.

Gladstone already owns thousands of acres of farmland in Florida, including almost 2,000 acres in the Okeechobee area of which 1,368 are farmable and planted in cabbage and other vegetables. Also locally, it owns 400 acres planted in bell pepper, green beans and other vegetables on Orange Avenue in Fort Pierce; 690 gross/390 farmable acres planted in bell pepper and green beans on Corbitt Road in Hendry County; and 2,678 gross/1,644 farmable acres planted in vegetables on two non-contiguous farms in the Immokalee Exchange, also inside Hendry.

The company’s release quoted Bill Frisbie, managing director of Gladstone Land: “We are pleased to significantly increase our high-value, fruit and vegetable acreage in South Florida.”

Gladstone gives interested farmers three options: for those who wish to sell, “we offer long-term sale leaseback transactions which allow them to free up capital to improve their farming operations”; for those who want to farm but not own the land, to “purchase the farms and rent them to the farmers with flexible lease terms”; or, for sellers who don’t farm their own land, to “offer cash purchase of the land, while either keeping the existing tenant-farmers in place or finding new farmers if needed.”

Mr. Frisbie confirmed that the 5,630 acres Gladstone purchased are within one or more of the counties of Okeechobee, Glades, Hendry, Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Collier and Lee.

Asked his opinion of the acquisition, Gene McAvoy, the UF/IFAS Hendry County Extension director, said, “It probably is part of the trend (toward the corporatization of American farmland) … but it may also be a mechanism to speculate on prime real estate and keep it in agriculture until it is ripe for development.” He added, though, that he could not be certain of that.