Farmland Insider: Kansas auction of 10,900 acres sells for $38 million

14 buyers spent an average of $3,460 per acre for irrigated and drylands in Feb. 18 sale.

It is hard to imagine the logistics of handling a land sale as big as the one Peoples Company and Lund Company managed on Thursday, February 18 in Liberal, Kansas. The numbers are staggering:

  • 10,935.17 acres
  • 41 tracts
  • 14 buyers
  • 91 bidders
  • $38 million changing hands
  • $3,464 per acre

“It definitely was a strong sale and exceeded expectations,” wrote Steve Bruere, owner of Peoples Company, in an email to Successful Farming.

The land – located in Seward and Stevens counties in southwest Kansas – featured a mix of center-pivot irrigated land, dryland, native grass, and land with improvements, including sheds, grain bins, and dwellings. Tract sizes ranged from 6.91 acres m/l to 1,085.87 acres, with 10,037.76 FSA cropland acres of which 1,609.45 acres m/l are enrolled in CRP with annual payments totaling over $48,000.

The auction literature says the Hatcher Farms has built up one of the largest groundwater holdings in the state:

“Over the years, the Hatcher family has developed extensive water rights which authorize approximately 7,900 acres m/l to be irrigated through 54 well-maintained pivots making Hatcher Farms the seventh-largest irrigation groundwater consumer in southwest Kansas. With some of the best water in Kansas, these deep-water wells consistently produce between 625 and 1,950 GPM. With great water and soils, this farming operation has regularly produced crop yields well above the county averages including consistent production of 200-plus-bushel corn. Conservation practices have been actively applied to the farm including the use of cover crops to increase soil tilth and reduce erosion.”

Buyers included mostly area farmers, but investors bought some tracts and played a major role in the auction, Bruere says. 

“Fourteen different buyers ended up winning the auction, but there were whole farm bidders competing against the individual buyers,” he says. 

The seller was Hatcher Farms, an operation with more than 7,000 acres of irrigated land including a 4,999-head feedlot, plus infrastructure including center pivot and pump systems, and grain bins. Each tract’s water rights sold with the property, which sits atop the Ogallala Aquifer. 

There were 90 registered bidders in all, with 300 bids placed throughout the auction, which took seven hours, Bruere says. 

“The multiparcel format where we could have individual bidders, combination buyers, and whole tract buyers compete against each other is what makes this unique, and there were plenty of buyers at all levels,” he says. “There were multiple bidders firing off bids, driving the value. While the auction took nearly seven hours to complete, it was a pretty quick process to sell 41 tracts and achieve that sales price.”  

According to USDA data, irrigated cropland in Kansas averaged $3,270 per acre in 2020. The $3,464-per-acre average selling price for all the land in the Hatcher sale far exceeded that. 

“The land market is on fire and there are no signs of it slowing up anytime soon,” Bruere says.  

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