Promised Land OZ Exhibits at the 2024 Land Investment Expo

Earlier this month, Promised Land ventured up to snowy Des Moines, Iowa to the 2024 Land Investment Expo. The Promised Land team sat in on several sessions highlighting key events in agricultural investing while also having a booth display to showcase Promised Land. Despite a historic blizzard that kept many event registrants homebound, Promised Land’s booth proved to be quite popular thanks to some delicious cookies and key investment materials. We had the opportunity to meet investors, farmers, and industry experts from across the country who were curious to learn more about Promised Land and opportunity zones. We were surprised by the high percentage of farmers, farmland owners, and ag business leaders that we spoke with who were unfamiliar with the Opportunity Zone (OZ) tax legislation. We were not surprised to find that many of these rural American business owners had an OZ in their “backyard” or nearby census tract when we jointly consulted an online OZ mapping tool in real time. 

Another event highlight was the opportunity for Promised Land’s founder, John Heneghan, and investment analyst, Ailie Elmore, to convene in the studio for an interview on the Land and Everything Else podcast. The podcast is being created by Craig Lemoine and Ailie with the College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois. It is aimed at providing listeners with knowledge and opinions about investing in alternative investments. The recording will be released later this Spring, so stay tuned!

The Land Investment Expo has a rich history of prominent keynote speakers including Martha Stewart, Jimmy John, Sam Zell, and several noteworthy political figures. This year was no different as People’s Company brought in various experts on the economy, agriculture, geopolitics, and even football. The Expo’s breakout sessions were filled with informative conversations about alternative energy, conservation programs, and farmland investing, among others. 

The 2024 Land Investing Expo highlighted thirteen keynote speakers along with long-time host Eric O’Keefe, publisher of the Land Report, who led several conversations throughout the day. The morning began with USDA Under Secretary of Farm Production and Conservation, Robert Bonnie, providing a legislative update and viewpoints on the Farm Bill which is expected to be passed sometime later this year. He set the stage for a global macro conversation with Willis Sparks, Director of Global Macro of Eurasia Group. Mr. Sparks covered several key geopolitical conflicts such as the ongoing Russia and Ukrainian War and the Israeli conflict with terrorist group Hamas. As agriculture is a global marketplace, stakeholders in the industry need to be apprised of world events and their potential effects on trade flows and production. Moving on to domestic policy, Eric O’Keefe then sat down with California State Representative, James Gallagher, to discuss the political consequences on California Ag as the state moves toward green energy initiatives that may have adverse consequences for some California farmers and landowners.

After a morning of breakout sessions and a welcome cookie break at the Promised Land booth, attendees headed to the main stage to enjoy lunch while listening to New England Patriots Hall of Fame quarterback, Drew Bledsoe, talk about football, community, and winemaking. In a very candid conversation, Eric O’Keefe talked with Mr. Bledsoe about his football career and how he “doublebacked”  to his small-town roots in Walla Walla, Washington to open up a high-end winery. Interestingly enough, there is a large patch of opportunity zone properties located near Walla Walla that Promised Land plans to investigate further. Unfortunately, there was no taste testing of the Drew’s wine over lunch but we will be giving DoubleBack Winery’s Cabernet a try in the near future. Before the group was dismissed for the afternoon breakout sessions, Peoples Company’s own, Dr. Dave Muth, came to the main stage to discuss the Opportunities for US Farmland in a Net Zero World. His presentation was very interesting and Promised Land plans to highlight this presentation in more detail in the next newsletter. 

Finally, before attendees were able to redeem their drink tickets at the post-Expo happy hour, they entered the main hall for one more round of diverse conversations. Promised Land’s Advisory Board Member, Dr. Bruce Sherrick, discussed current land trends and expectations for future changes in valuation. We highlighted similar trends in a recent article. Dr. Sherrick was a bit, more skeptical about the immediate future for farmland markets but long-term bullish. Dr. Sherrick thought farmland values over the next year or two may see a leveling off of the strong appreciation we have experienced particularly in the Midwest, over the past four years. 

Next former President & CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Esther George, and Senior Fellow at George Mason University and former FOMC member, Thomas Hoenig, conversed about the recent tightrope that the Federal Reserve has been walking to combat inflation. In sum, the esteemed panelists unanimously believed that Chairman Powell is walking a policy tightrope between inflation and economic growth.  Finally, in the last session of the day and one of the most highly anticipated, Eric O’Keefe sat down with experts at the National Agricultural Law Center and agricultural investment professionals to discuss recent political concerns over foreign ownership of agricultural land. The recent controversy over Chinese ownership interest in agricultural land near strategic military and other sensitive assets has some domestic landowners concerned over losing control over America’s precious gem, farmland. However, the group discussed that less than a percent of land in the U.S. is foreign-owned with a majority of that percentage being owned by our Canadian neighbors to the north. 

The day ended with a few laughs and spirits at Happy Hour while Promised Land continued to make connections with potential partners and friends. We’re grateful for the fruitful conversations we had at the Land Investment Expo and will continue to build on this momentum as we grow Fund II’s investment pipeline and investor base. Many thanks to People’s Company for hosting such a successful farmland conference.


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