America’s leading landowners added hundreds of thousands of acres to their holdings last year. That’s one of the many takeaways from the 2021 Land Report 100, which is compiled each year by Land Report magazine. This landmark study is now in its 15th edition. It tracks the diverse arrays of farmers, ranchers forest owners, entrepreneurs and investors who own at minimum 243.75 miles. As time has proven, this ownership figure is a moving target — and it keeps moving up.
In the study’s first year, 2007, the founder of Burt’s Bees, Roxanne Quimby, qualified for the No. 100 slot with 75,000 acreage of Maine timberland. The rock-bottom amount to join this club in 2021 was more than twice that amount, 156,000 acres. There are specific criteria that must also be adhered to. Only domestic holdings can count, and ownership must not be leased but deeded. Otherwise, No. 100 on the list — Nevada’s Ellison Family — would be in the top 10. That’s because the Ellisons’ cattle kingdom in Elko and Lander Counties consists of more than 2 million acres of leased federal lands. Because they hold title over 156,000 acres, this is how they are ranked.
Who is the No. Who is the No.
An entirely different story emerges at the top of the Land Report 100. In 2021, California’s Emmerson Family, owners of Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI), acquired 175,000 acres in Oregon from Seneca Jones Timber. That transaction, which was announced on October 1, raised the family’s holdings to more than 2.33 million deeded acres.
The inspiring story of the family’s patriarch, Red Emmerson, is the magazine’s cover story and the featured profile in the 2021 roundup. Emmerson started his career in the wood product industry in 1949 when he joined his father to manage a leased mill that had been abandoned in northern California. Seventy-two years later, the 92-year-old is still on the job, officing at SPI’s headquarters just down the hall from his sons, George and Mark, SPI’s chairman and CEO, respectively. His daughter, Carolyn Dietz, runs the family’s Sierra Pacific Foundation, which has distributed almost $34 million to community programs and scholarships.
Other top landowners
John Malone, Liberty Media Chairman, was ranked No. 2 with 2.2 millions acres of ranchland in West Texas and timberland holdings for the Northeast. Washington’s Reed Family ranked No. 3 with 2.1 millions acres. CNN founder Ted Turner ranked no. 4 with 2,000,000 acres. Los Angeles Rams’ owner Stan Kroenke ranked fifth with 1,627,500 acres. Kroenke Ranches has grown to be a major player in renewable energy and is expected to be able power more than 1,000,000 households.
With almost 269,000 acres, Bill Gates retained his ranking as America’s largest private farmland owner. But instead of what he bought, of note in 2021 was what Microsoft’s cofounder did not buy: Easterday Farms and Ranches. The scam that defrauded Tyson Foods and others involved extensive operations in eastern Washington. Farmland Reserve paid $209million to win an auction at the bankruptcy court. This was $1 million more than Gates’ investment company.
Finally, one of the nation’s most innovative agricultural operations was the subject of an in-depth profile in the 2021 Land Report 100. The Fanjul family, owners of Florida Crystals has created an extraordinary land management program over the past 50-years that combines cutting-edge technology with Mother Nature. On the one hand, GPS technology is used to enhance laser leveling and the creation of furrows on the family’s 190,000 acres in South Florida. The company also has 600 bird boxes that house the barn owls it uses to reduce losses to rats. Their love for sugarcane can have a significant impact on harvest.
Eric O’Keefe The editor of The Land ReportThe magazine of American landowners is titled. LandReport.com.
Source: Successful Farming