Growing Produce Magazine
Published December 5, 2014
Recent events and trends around the country have come together to create unprecedented demand for Florida agricultural land. But there’s only one problem: There isn’t enough farmland on the market to satisfy the demand, according to veteran Florida land broker Ben Crosby.
“Most of my career, I’ve been helping land owners find buyers. Now, things are turned upside down and buyers are calling on me for help in finding agricultural land to buy,” said Crosby, president of Winter Haven, FL-based Crosby & Associates.
“For years, people have been talking about the Midwest, but land prices in those areas have reached a point where investors are looking elsewhere. Meanwhile, chronic water shortages in California and Texas have become so severe that some farmers and ranchers there are looking to relocate in Florida,” said Crosby.
Demographic and economic factors in Florida also are driving major transitions in land use. “We have a lot of citrus groves that are in decline, and the problems with citrus greening are also hastening that. But grove owners have a lot of options in the current marketplace. Some are converting them to row crops or pasture, for example,” said Crosby.
The current shortage of farmland has some baby boomers considering leaving the business earlier than they had planned.
“The older baby boomers are pushing 70 now, and in many cases, there’s no heir apparent to the farm. Some of them are looking at the current demand for Florida farmland and realizing it won’t last forever, so it may make sense for some to go ahead, sell the farm and retire a little earlier than they had planned,” said Crosby.
While much of Crosby’s business involves private treaty transactions, he said Crosby & Associates is also putting a greater emphasis on the use of auctions, working with longtime partner Murray Wise Associates.
“When it’s a seller’s market, it’s important to make sure you’re getting the full market value for your land. Sometimes you’ll have an offer that gives you a nice profit, but someone else might have paid more. The competitive auction process ensures a fair market price,” said Crosby.
Recent auctions by the companies have included 1,944 acres in St. Lucie County, 2,620 acres in Martin County and 7,377 acres in Martin, Manatee, Hillsborough, and Polk counties.