Farmers and ranchers love accumulating assets, land in particular, but when markets are down and the outlook uncertain, sometimes there comes a point when it’s time to see if you can cash out and move on.
That’s the story behind Nebraska’s most expensive farm real estate listing. Anthony Zeman of Bassett, Nebraska, is asking $34 million for his irrigated crop and beef operation in the north-central Sandhills — $20 million more than the next highest value property on the market.
The 59-year-old beef producer spent 14 years accumulating and improving 10,343 acres of farm and ranchland, which includes 44 center pivots on 5,640 acres. On the remaining 4,700 acres, Zeman currently runs 2,300 cow/calf pairs and has a 2,500-head open-air feeding facility with 3,600 linear feet of concrete bunks and 24 feeding pens.
Irrigated corn yields average 180 to 230 bushels per acre and soybean yields average 60 to 70 bpa. Alfalfa ground produces about 7 tons per acre with four to five cuttings per season. The operation has 51 registered irrigation wells and four stock wells, and none of them are subject to water restrictions or pumping limits on the irrigation units.
“We’ve had a lot of interest. An operation this unique and large doesn’t come up for sale very often,” said Tom Metzger with Hall and Hall, an agricultural brokerage and mortgage firm handling the sale. “The seller wants to sell it all together and not split it up. However, if we find a couple of buyers with different interests, we could divide the farm, but we want to close the sale at one time.”
Hall and Hall listed the ranch for sale in early April.
Metzger said Zeman’s sons don’t want to be involved with the ranch long term, and Zeman wants to slow down, quit working so hard, reduce risk and enjoy life more.
A recent report from Farmers National Company finds there’s less land on the market — particularly high-quality farmland — than usual. Yet, after steady declines in farm income and rising interest rates, concern is growing that the farmland market may not be able to maintain its stability.
“Individual landowners and investors are both scratching their heads as to the current land market and where it might go,” the report states. “It is as if there are two land markets: one that says it is a good time to sell and one that indicates that it is time to invest in land.”
The report finds land values in the Southern Plains range from stable to down 10% compared to last year, with the variances occurring in quality and location.
Paul Schadegg, a Farmers’ National sales manager for the region, said there’s a mix of sellers in the market, but the most common type of seller is similar to the Zemans, selling to either retire or settle an estate. He expects a rising number of distressed farm sales later this year.
Zeman’s asking price — at $34 million — is stratospheric compared to other ranches on the market. There are only about six other Nebraska farm and ranch listings that currently top $10 million, according to www.landsofamerica.com, an online database of rural property listings. There are another handful of Nebraska farm and ranch listings in the $6.5 million range, and those tend to be large grass and hunting ranches.
In Kansas, only three large ranches are listed for more than $10 million, topping out at $16.8 million, in Sharon Springs, Comanche and Morrowville.
South Dakota has six ranches for sale with price tags above $10 million. The most expensive is listed at $55.6 million for 3,800 deeded acres in Buffalo, with additional grazing permit land. An irrigated ranch near Mission with 5,583 acres is asking $32.9 million.
Expensive ranches are not unusual in the mountain west. Montana has 53 ranch listings costing more than $10 million. And, if you’re not out of spare change yet, there is a 56,000-acre ranch in Routt County, Colorado (county seat: Steamboat Springs) that can be yours for $100 million.