Photos courtesy of Steven Brockshus
As of early September, there were 13,469 listings and 372 upcoming auctions in 12 states across the Midwest. This should give you an idea of the need for a site like Farmlandfinder.com. The site consolidates farmland auctions into one spot and will also provide you satellite imagery, soil map, crop history and more in easy to read reports for its customers. We sat down with Farmland Finder Founder and CEO Steven Brockshus to discuss what this means for farmers.
You have been in agriculture for most of your life. Why did you decide that Farmland Finder was a needed product?
In the summer of 2015, I was at a farmland auction near my family’s farm in Northwest Iowa. The auctioneer had taken a picture from the side of the road for the farm he was selling and there wasn’t much more data available than that. In a world where we have data and information available at our fingertips, it struck me as odd that when it comes to farmland – one of peoples most cherished assets – there’s almost no information available. That was one of the seeds that turned into FarmlandFinder, which currently is the largest and most up-to-date farmland sales database on the market.
Can you talk about where the small farms are at right now? Is it even possible to start a farm and make a living if you don’t inherit land?
There are more absentee landowners that are renting land to more farmers than at any point in history. You don’t have to inherit land to get started in farming. As with any business, getting started can be difficult but there are some newer land financing companies that help the asset-light farmer get access to capital. The USDA also has resources for young and beginning farmers, which can help out. If you don’t come from a farming family but want to start a farm, you’ll have to get creative, but it most definitely is possible.
Are we going to continue to see the growth of larger and larger farms?
Yes. In the commoditized row crop industry, it is economically more efficient to spread your machinery and labor cost over more acres. If we’re going to see smaller farms, we’ll see it from farmers who have found a way to de-commoditize themselves. These farmers have to find a way to provide a value-add product instead of trying to compete as a low-cost producer in a commoditized market.
North Dakota Farm Stats
- N.D. farm operations – 26,364
- U.S. farm operations – 2,042,220
- U.S. farms of 2,000 or more acres – 85,127
- N.D. farms of 2,000 or more acres – 6,721
- N.D. acres of farmland – 39,341,591
- U.S. acres of farmland – 900,217,576
- U.S. average size of farm – 441 ACRES
- N.D. average size of farm – 1,492 ACRES
- Estimated market value of land and buildings average per farm – $2,546,783
- Estimated market value of all machinery and equipment average per farm – $375,872
* Stats from the Census of Agriculture by the U.S. Department of Agriculture
As the older generation of farmers begin to retire, are we seeing more family farms being sold off? What sort of effect does that have on the farmland market?
Yes. With the average age of the landowner being 67 years old and the average life expectancy in the US being 79 years old, we’re going to see over 50 percent of the farmland in the US transfer ownership in the next 12 years. I think we’ll see more land for sale, but that won’t necessarily equate to land values going down. There is a strong demand for farmland and institutional investors are seeing land as a steady and solid asset class that produces compelling returns. As demand continues to increase, I think we’ll see land prices remain stable and increase in the long run.
One of the things I’m curious about as ag-tech continues to improve is that farms will need fewer workers, which may hurt smaller towns as the other jobs on farms become automated, which will lead to fewer jobs in rural communities. Do you have any thoughts on this?
In the 1930s, there were almost seven million farms. Today, there’s right around 2 million and that number has been steady since the 1970s. It’s my guess that small towns felt the biggest impact during that shift. Looking forward, I don’t see that decreasing the number of farms anywhere close to the dropoff we saw mid last century. With that said, it’s inevitable that farms become almost entirely automated. It’s also inevitable that other industries in small towns will become highly automated like CPAs, attorneys, medical diagnosis, manufacturing, trucking, etc. These will affect towns and cities everywhere. I think for the small town and rural communities to thrive in the future, they’ve got to figure out how to amplify what they’re inherently good at and focus on that.