Peoples Company adds Michigan appraisal firm to growing network

The deal will give Value Midwest clients access to Peoples Company’s brokerage, land management and investment services.

Peoples Company has acquired a stake in Value Midwest, an agricultural real estate services and appraisal firm based in Marlette, Michigan.

The deal will see Value Midwest offer its clients access to Peoples Company’s brokerage, land management and investment services, while Peoples Company will add Value Midwest’s appraisers to its existing network.

Value Midwest president Mark Williams told Agri Investor that, whereas most appraisal firms focus on a specific region or property type, his firm has taken a broader view that has led to work in 30 US states.

In addition to geographic diversity, Williams said, Value Midwest also works across a diverse set of asset types, including: dairy, hog and poultry facilities; conservation easements and vineyards; and row and permanent crop farmland.

“There is a huge vacuum for qualified appraisers that have the ability to value multiple types of properties in multiple geographic locations,” said Williams.

Williams expects the new partnership to allow his firm to offer more services to a class of investor that might own multiple relevant properties across different states, but is currently using different appraisers in each.

The role of such institutions in the US farmland markets has evolved since the early 2000s, Williams said, adding that he currently sees financial investors as the “most active” buyers of premium farmland and expects them to continue expanding in the market. His firm commonly sees groups of small neighboring properties combined to provide institutional investors with sizable properties, he added.

“An investor is not going to step into an 80-acre or 160-acre tract,” Williams said, describing a deal in which a Value Midwest client combined its property with four of its neighbors’ to create a contiguous tract eventually sold directly to a pension fund.

“Anywhere where there are pockets where you might be able to buy at between $500 to $2,000 or $3,000 an acre in a fairly contiguous unit, that’s where the investors are going to look,” said Williams.

He also highlighted the increasing sophistication of younger farmers coming into decision-making positions in family operations as another key feature in US farmland markets. While farmers have historically been focused on owning their land and equipment, Williams said, many of the young producers he meets are singularly focused on net profit.

“Today’s young farmer is more capital savvy. He realizes he doesn’t have to own all the land,” said Williams. “They move much more quickly and they are looking for partners that are results-oriented. They don’t want to go to their local bank and wait six weeks to get an answer. They want to partner with people that understand business and cashflow and can net income.”

Peoples Company agreed a similar deal with Washington-headquartered agricultural asset broker AgriBusiness Trading Group last year.