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Land price bump strains family buyouts

Marcia Zarley Taylor

ELMER, NJ – Runaway farmland values are making it harder for young farmers to buy into the business. Just ask Mike Brooks, 29, an eighth-generation farmer who has purchased 300 acres from his parents in a state with the priciest land in the country.

One thing Brooks knows from experience: “There’s no way $15,000 or $20,000 per acre land cash-flows.”

Around Brooks’ home in Salem County, NJ – about 45 minutes south of Philadelphia – bulldozers are running, and raw land still sprouts housing developments with $300,000 houses. Unable to compete with urbanites, Brooks needed his parents, Bill and Diane, to sell development rights to a state agency before transferring real estate titles to him. Typically, that knocks pure farmland values down to about $4,000 to $6,000 per acre.

Even with the discount, Brooks had to rely on an understanding lender and high-value crops such as processing tomatoes, potatoes and double-crop spinach to help service his Mount Everest-sized debts. On the 300 acres remaining in Bill and Diane’s estate, “I’ve told my parents, if I can rent land from my sisters, it’s cheaper than me owning it,” Brooks said.

ELMER, NJ – Runaway farmland values are making it harder for young farmers to buy into the business. Just ask Mike Brooks, 29, an eighth-generation farmer who has purchased 300 acres from his parents in a state with the priciest land in the country.

One thing Brooks knows from experience: “There’s no way $15,000 or $20,000 per acre land cash-flows.”

Around Brooks’ home in Salem County, NJ – about 45 minutes south of Philadelphia – bulldozers are running, and raw land still sprouts housing developments with $300,000 houses. Unable to compete with urbanites, Brooks needed his parents, Bill and Diane, to sell development rights to a state agency before transferring real estate titles to him. Typically, that knocks pure farmland values down to about $4,000 to $6,000 per acre.

Even with the discount, Brooks had to rely on an understanding lender and high-value crops such as processing tomatoes, potatoes and double-crop spinach to help service his Mount Everest-sized debts. On the 300 acres remaining in Bill and Diane’s estate, “I’ve told my parents, if I can rent land from my sisters, it’s cheaper than me owning it,” Brooks said.

ELMER, NJ – Runaway farmland values are making it harder for young farmers to buy into the business. Just ask Mike Brooks, 29, an eighth-generation farmer who has purchased 300 acres from his parents in a state with the priciest land in the country.

One thing Brooks knows from experience: “There’s no way $15,000 or $20,000 per acre land cash-flows.”

Around Brooks’ home in Salem County, NJ – about 45 minutes south of Philadelphia – bulldozers are running, and raw land still sprouts housing developments with $300,000 houses. Unable to compete with urbanites, Brooks needed his parents, Bill and Diane, to sell development rights to a state agency before transferring real estate titles to him. Typically, that knocks pure farmland values down to about $4,000 to $6,000 per acre.

Even with the discount, Brooks had to rely on an understanding lender and high-value crops such as processing tomatoes, potatoes and double-crop spinach to help service his Mount Everest-sized debts. On the 300 acres remaining in Bill and Diane’s estate, “I’ve told my parents, if I can rent land from my sisters, it’s cheaper than me owning it,” Brooks said.


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