Farmers National Company was begun in 1929—historically not a banner year for starting new businesses, but over 80 years have passed and the company is thriving. Originally, the company’s core business was farm management, and today it’s the largest, fastest-growing and most successful farm management company in the U.S. The full-service real estate company offers traditional listing services as well as auction services.
Where: Headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska. Operates in 23 states, covering a wide swath of the middle of the country. Its newest office was just added in Washington state.
Why: “We completed nearly 200 successful auctions of over 41,000 acres in 2010,” say Lee Vermeer, VP of Real Estate Operations. The sheer reach of Farmers and impressive closed sale numbers are overwhelming.
Wow: “Farmers National Company has sold over 2,600 farms and ranches and completed 750 successful auctions, resulting in over $1.25 billion in sales in the last four years,” says Vermeer. “We have over 200 licensed agents, all of whom can offer full auction services.”
Farmers National Company
$135 million (2010 auction revenues)
“Land is not only a great place to store wealth. It is yesterday’s small cap stock without the risk.” — Kevin Pifer.
Pifer’s Auction & Realty is a full-service auction and real estate firm headed by Kevin Pifer, former North Dakota Deputy Commissioner of Agriculture. “Pifer’s has sold nearly 350,000 acres since its inception in 2001,” says Pifer. Pifer’s also manages a land investment fund, Farm USA Trust, which focuses on buying and managing corn and soybean land in the upper Midwest.
Where: Offices in Moorhead, Minnesota, and Mesa, Arizona. Covers South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, Wisconsin, Arizona, and California.
Why: The firm offers auctions, traditional real estate brokering, and land management. “In addition to land sales, Pifer’s manages approximately 30,000 acres of land in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin,” notes Pifer.
Wow: Sales were up 150% over last year. “We sold $20.4 million of land through 85 transactions during the last quarter of 2010. On October 26, 2010, Pifer’s conducted seven auctions in southwestern North Dakota for seven different sellers, representing 2,800 acres of crop land, pasture land, and hunting land,” says Pifer.
Pifer’s Auction & Realty
(877) 700-4099 • www.pifers.com
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When Warren Buffett talks up farmland, it’s time we all took a look. Buffett made the following statement last month while being interviewed by Becky Quick on CNBC’s Squawk Box. Read more
Having trouble with your waters? Consider the challenges faced on the Waggoner Ranch: over half a million acres under one fence and not a drop of groundwater. Read more
Nestled at the base of the Tobacco Root Mountains in Southwestern Montana’s premier ranching, big-game, and fly-fishing region, Hollow Top Ranch’s 4,438 acres feature a two-mile stretch of South Willow Creek with outstanding German brown and brook trout habitat.
The west side of the Ranch borders the Beaverhead/Deerlodge National Forest for approximately two miles providing unlimited hunting and recreational opportunities. From high alpine meadows to lush irrigated meadows intertwined along South Willow Creek, the Ranch contains a very diverse terrain that produces outstanding pasture and attracts large populations of wildlife. Conservative grazing patterns have enhanced deer, elk and upland game bird populations. The plentiful water resources – combined with abundant big game, upland birds and private fishing with close proximity to the conveniences of Bozeman – make this well-blocked place an extremely desirable offering in today’s market.
The Ranch is located in one of Southwestern Montana’s premier ranching, big-game hunting and fly-fishing areas. Combined with close proximity to the Madison, Gallatin, Jefferson and Missouri Rivers, it may be one of the finest fly fishing and big game hunting properties available today.
The world’s grittiest dog? The Catahoula.
The boar weighed at least 300 pounds. Guthrie, a two year-old Catahoula, weighed about 60 pounds. The two collided with predictable results. Guthrie, flattened and addled but far from finished, righted himself and pursued. A few minutes later, he and his three pack-mates brought the boar to bay.
I witnessed the collision from 15 yards away. As I huffed toward the squealing and baying, I declared the Catahoula the world’s grittiest dog. Generations of “cracker” cowboys who counted on their Catahoulas to roust wild cattle from palmetto flats would not argue with that appraisal.
Don’t turn a Catahoula loose on your flock of sheep; he’ll eat them up getting them into the pen. Save him for the mad mama Hereford that just ran through your three border collies. Or the boar that cuts up Plott hounds for sport.
Early settlers found versatile hunting and herding dogs among Indians in Louisiana’s Catahoula Lake area. They may have been pure native stock, but they probably shared blood with hunting, herding, and war dogs brought by European explorers. Catahoulas are fierce toward game and rough with livestock but friendly toward humans. Most run about 55 to 80 pounds. Dog lovers are drawn to the Catahoula’s striking coat, athleticism, and ghostly blue or “glass” eyes.
• Select only from working stock.
• Seek training tips from experienced hunters and herdsmen.
• Worry about eye color. A good dog looks good.
• Get too much white in your dog’s coat.
At Villa Montana, Joe Montana does not talk about football. At all. Meet the man on his Sonoma County getaway and all he talks about are his wife, their two girls and two boys, and the memories they share on their breathtaking 503-acre estate. And Italy. The one thing the guy will not stop talking about is Italy.
“If you can believe it, some idiot drove across the Ponte Vecchio in his rent car,” Montana says. As his face lights up in a contagious smile, it’s clear that the idiot Montana is referring to would be the four-time Super Bowl winner himself.
“I’m looking at my GPS, and it said to get back to the villa where Jennifer and I were staying I needed to turn right. The pillars weren’t up on the Ponte Vecchio, so I follow the GPS and I turn right,” he says. And with that, the Hall of Famer etched his name in the history books yet again by driving across one of the most celebrated landmarks in all of Florence.
“I get to the other side, and this cop has his hands up” – Montana raises both hands in a mock “Have you lost your mind?” sort of look – “and he gives me a tongue lashing in Italian. I didn’t understand a single word he said, but I knew exactly what he was saying.”
Stories like this and his amazing wine country estate are two of the new chapters in his life that have been written since he hung up his helmet and retired from the NFL in 1995. With his football career behind him, kids and family became his life, which is why Villa Montana turned into such an important project for him and his wife.
Conveniently located just an hour and a half north of San Francisco, the ranch became the family’s great getaway. Cookouts and campouts quickly replaced practices and game days. Acres and acres of rolling hills were explored. So, too, were the year-round creeks that wind their way through the hollows and the draws that crease the terrain.
A full-size basketball court was built for Nate and Nick, and Alexandra, Elizabeth, and Jennifer got their own professional-grade equestrian center, complete with 17 heated stalls. A skeet shooting range was built in a secluded pasture. Naturally, Joe was the only member of the family who engaged in all of the above. Although he’s in his mid-50s now, his boundless energy is readily apparent. The natural athlete makes time to work out four or five times a week.
Building Villa Montana was an epic undertaking, a monumental, three-year labor of love for Joe and Jennifer. Joe’s mother was born in Italy. He treasures these strong ties, and during his playing days the couple brought back only memories from their trips overseas. “Actually, the truth is on every trip I always brought back a few extra pounds. Jen is one of the lucky few who can eat anything she wants and actually lose weight. Different story with me,” he says.
The couple built a home in Atherton, a Bay area community south of San Francisco, and they infused it with their shared love of all things Italian. By the time they decided to embark on Villa Montana, they were old pros in the Tuscan tradition. When their Atherton builder got a call about a villa that was being torn down, he and Jennifer were on the first flight out of San Francisco. Not long afterwards, hand-hewn beams, Baroque wood portals, and artifact Italian fireplaces were en route to Northern California.
By the time the Montanas broke ground on their new country home, it was clear that a masterpiece was in the works. Although the house itself is almost 10,000 square feet, its three bedrooms and the adjacent studio where Jennifer likes to paint offer an intimacy that personalizes it in a family-friendly way. That’s especially obvious in the kitchen, which may well be the busiest intersection on the property.
Throughout the main residence, a fascinating array of old and new presents itself: hand-worked iron elements and flat-screen TVs, ancient stone floors, and a state-of-the-art outdoor grill. In the massive great room, the 22-foot-tall ceiling compels your gaze upward and outside to stunning views of Mount Saint Helena, the tallest point in the Mayacamas. Beneath the imposing massif, a tapestry of vineyards and pastures unfolds across Knights Valley, one of Sonoma’s original American Viticultural Areas.
Despite its artistic feel, Villa Montana is user-friendly, built with an active, energetic family in mind. An endless array of patios, terraces, and courtyards encircle the villa and give it a great indoor-outdoor feel. A bocce court, a swimming pool, and a Jacuzzi can all be found in close proximity to one another just a few steps from the kitchen. Drain spouts emerge from hand-plastered walls. Potted plants and crawling vines bring color to pale stone. It’s wonderfully relaxing, which is ultimately the most inviting—and appealing—aspect to Villa Montana. It’s definitely made for entertaining: two people, 20, or 200.
Unfortunately, Villa Montana sits in silent splendor much of the time these days. No longer can Nate and Nick be found playing on its hills. Nate has just moved to Bozeman where he will play ball for Montana, and Nick is a Washington Husky. With Alexandra and Elizabeth in San Francisco and Los Angeles, their papa admits that his days on the ranch have dwindled to a shadow of their former number. “Jennifer and I are too busy chasing our kids to give this property the time it deserves,” he says.
With that in mind, the Montanas have listed Villa Montana with Avram Goldman and Tim Hayden at Pacific Union International’s Sonoma and St. Helena offices for $35 million.
“It’s a Picasso,” Goldman says. “A rare jewel. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The antiquities and artwork make you feel like you’ve come upon a 500-year-old Tuscan villa. Yet it has every convenience and amenity imaginable. I’ve been in real estate more than three decades, and I promise you that you would be hard-pressed to find a home like this anywhere, Italy included.”
In addition to the 9,700-square-foot villa, the ranch includes a pool and spa, a guest house, a caretaker’s residence, a gym, an equestrian center, a basketball court, a bocce court, the skeet shooting range, and an olive farm. As Joe puts it, “It’s time someone else started making memories here.”
Learn more about Villa Montana HERE.
Wild Billy Lake operates as a fly-fishing lodge with a long list of repeat clients who use drift boats, prams, canoes, belly boats, and motor boats. Located in Klamath County, the property sits at the confluence of the Sprague and the Sycan Rivers in the heart of Oregon’s best fly-fishing country. The 1,020-acre property completely surrounds its namesake, 200-acre natural lake.
Live Water Properties
Three and a half miles of the Yellowstone River course through this 5,500-acre ranch, which features stunning views of the Absaroka, Beartooth, and Crazy Mountain ranges. A Yellowstone Valley gem, the Engwis features 900 irrigated acres, all mineral rights, significant water rights, and a 9,500 S.F. main residence. A newly constructed indoor riding arena also includes an attached guest house.