In Episode 114, we welcome entrepreneur and author, David Gladstone. We start with David’s backstory, which dovetails into how he got into farming, and subsequently, launching a farmland REIT.
Meb asks for David’s broad thoughts on investing in farmland.
David tells us “farmland is one of the most stable assets one can own.” He goes on to say how it correlates with gold, not with the stock market. David gives us an overview of the farming landscape – how corn and wheat are the big categories, but this isn’t where David goes with his REIT, too much competition. He focuses more on berries and specialty crops, which are far more profitable. He mentions how tree/vine/bush crops have a great long-term record for making money for farmers.
Next, Meb asks about operations – does David manage the farms? Just rent them out?
David tells us they use triple net leases with their farmer tenants. Sometimes they will also have a revenue participation, but that’s unusual. David goes on to say how farmland is becoming more scare, so they choose farmers who are experienced and trusted. As an investment, farmland has done quite well. NCREIF publishes a farm index – it has done 12.2% annually over the last 10 years. David believes that due to the growth and stability of farmland, it’s an excellent place to put money – especially as it’s a hedge against inflation. He references a Buffett quote that touts owning farmland versus owning gold.
Meb asks whether there are any current trends in the farming space. David tells us the number of acres per person is declining. It’s now down to about 0.5 farmed acres per person in the world. The conversation segues into water. David makes the point that his team only buys farms with access to their own water. This makes a huge difference. He references the California drought in recent years and notes it was an incredibly profitable period for them since their farms, with their own water supply, continued operations.
Next, Meb asks about David’s framework for finding new farms. What’s the process, and what’s the capital structure?
David tells us that’s what important is to have a tremendously strong farmer. They only deal with the top 20% of farmers in any growing area, so it’s a detailed vetting process. In terms of capital structure, they tend to finance about 50% of the purchase price. They use a variety of lenders.
The guys soon turn toward “risks.” David tell us that rising rates are a risk since they use debt. As rates rise, the price of the farms they purchase will need to drop in order to make the numbers work. Another risk are tariffs. This has a been a big problem for seeds. What if China or Mexico reduces their purchases?
There’s far more in this unique episode: David’s thoughts on expanding farmland REITs globally… the role of automation in farming… and why there aren’t more farmland REITS. If you’re curious about farmland as an investment, this is definitely the episode for you.
Get all the details in Episode 114.