Garst family farm

Garst family farmland was sold earlier this week to local bidders. (Photo courtesy of Peoples Company.)

Family’s conservation legacy continues through sale

August 19, 2021 | Bethany Baratta

Eight parcels of farmland owned by the Garst family and tied to conservation easements were sold earlier this week to local bidders.

The 1,998 acres of farmland near Coon Rapids sold for more than $19 million to five bidders on Tuesday. The sale included permanent conservation easements specific to each tract of farmland. Specifically, the easements require that certain sustainable agriculture practices be used on the farms and that conservation measures and structures currently utilized on the farms be maintained. The family’s 5,500-acre nonprofit land trust, Whiterock Conservancy, will enforce the permanent easements.

“For generations, my family has been at the cutting edge of agricultural innovation,” said Liz Garst, the Garst family’s business manager. “We see this sale as our last act of agricultural innovation—showing farmers that there is not only real value in soil conservation practices in terms of increased yields and in protecting the farm from weather extremes, but also for the next generation of farmers.”

Liz is the granddaughter of Roswell Garst, who hosted Soviet Premier Nikita Kruschev and his family on the Garst farm during the Cold War in 1959. During that time, Garst was introducing Pioneer hybrid seed corn to the western corn belt through the Garst & Thomas Hybrid Seed Company. He showed Kruschev how his seed could improve agriculture in the Soviet Union.

Peoples Company of Clive and Community Insurance Agency of Coon Rapids represented the Garst family in the sale. Matt Adams, vice president of brokerage for Peoples Company, says potential buyers had a lot of questions about the conservation easement requirement, thought to be the first of its kind, attached to the sale of the land. Peoples Company hosted webinars leading up to the auction discussing conservation easements.

Adams says the easement requirement put on the sale brought attention to pairing conservation legacies with farmland sales.

“Conservation wasn’t something we talked a lot about with our customers 10 years ago,” Adams says. “It was more of a pillar of land ownership. But now that people know that this (conservation easement) is possible, I think folks who are conservation minded and want to have a lasting legacy will consider something like this.”

Sealed bids for the farmland were due Aug 6. The top 7 individual bidders were then invited to the live auction on Aug. 17.

Ultimately, local farmers bought the eight tracts of farmland from the Garst family.

“The farms are located in an area where there’s generational wealth, but also strong, capable farmers,” Adams says. “Tracts went to local buyers, which was fun to see. It didn’t go to corporations or out-of-state buyers.”

Todd Sutphin, senior research program manager for the Iowa Soybean Association’s Research Center for Farming Innovation, noted that the average price per acre – $9,600 – is above the average 2020 farmland values for Carroll County at $8,800 per acre.

“Clearly the stewardship of the property had a positive impact on the sale price,” Sutphin says.