Northwest Florida Roundup
Pasture-ized: Hundreds of thousands of northwest Florida acres go from timber to pasture
Rural Florida series
In 2014, in one of the largest private land sales in Florida history, Utah-based AgReserves, a tax-paying affiliate of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, bought 383,000 acres from St. Joe Co. for $562 million.
The St. Joe acquisition included hundreds of parcels spread across Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty and Wakulla counties.
The deal swelled AgReserves’ holdings — it also owns the 295,000-acre Deseret Ranch in central Florida — to 678,000 acres, or more than 1,060 square miles, making it the state’s largest private landowner [“Land Lord,” FloridaTrend. com, January 2015].
Since the 2014 purchase, AgReserves, which operates one of the nation’s largest cow-calf operations at Deseret Cattle & Timber, has been steadily converting its Panhandle properties from timberland to pasture.
Deseret currently has more than 44,000 head of cattle on its 295,000-acre central Florida ranch site. The first herd of 800 cattle recently has been shipped from Deseret’s ranches to its Bay County pastureland, with more cattle expected to arrive later this year, says AgReserves spokesperson Vicki Johnson.
“The focus has been on creating pasture land for cattle grazing. That’s been the plan from the beginning and it’s just a matter now of implementing that plan,” says Johnson.
Johnson adds that AgReserves has no plans for residential or commercial development.
Meanwhile, the company has announced plans to build new northwest Florida corporate offices near the Gulf County town of Wewahitchka, after considering a site in Bay County, says Martin Jacobson, community development director for Bay County.
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