Peoples Company hires ex-Hancock exec for national appraisal role

Michael Lauher says he expects sustainability and technology to be key areas of focus for farmland managers and investors in the coming years.

Peoples Company has hired Michael Lauher as national director of appraisal and land management to help combine its services as it expands into new US markets.

The former Hancock executive joined the Clive, Iowa-headquartered farmland management, appraisal and transaction firm in mid-March in a Champaign, Illinois-based position. He joins Peoples Company after a two-year expansion period that has seen the company open offices in Washington, California and other markets, bringing the number of US states where it is licensed to operate to 21.

Lauher told Agri Investor his role will concentrate on continuing the firm’s focus on offering brokerage and land management services to retail farmland investors and family-run operations, even as the firm moves to continue expanding the range of clients it works with.

“There are a lot more institutions entering the space and we definitely want to be able service their needs as well,” he said.

Lauher noted that sustainability has long been a key concern among institutional investors. He said he expects efforts like the Leading Harvest initiative Peoples Company is a part of, which seeks to develop a standard for measuring sustainability in farmland investments,  will continue to play an increasingly important role in markets.

Technology is another area he expects will continue to shape farmland transactions, he said, noting that there are already a number of platforms using blockchain to support an expansion of agricultural investment opportunities to other investor types.

“While its early, it [blockchain] should open up access to the farmland asset class to smaller and smaller investors. That is something that I think is expanding in the industry and something I am looking forward to.”

After beginning his career with 14 years as a farm manager for a regional bank in Central Illinois, Lauher joined a farmland management firm focused on institutional investors that was acquired by Hancock Farmland Services in 2014, he said.

During his three years as vice-president and manager for row crops with Hancock, Lauher oversaw leased row crop properties throughout the US, according to his LinkedIn profile. It also shows that in a later role as Hancock’s senior vice-president for row crops and Eastern operations, Lauher continued to oversee growth in its row crop platform while also directly managing farms and consulting on row crop opportunities in Brazil.

Whereas his career had focused largely on hiring and overseeing tenant farmers capable of managing properties, Lauher said he left Hancock last year after a restructuring that prioritized direct operational experience by managers focused on specific regions.