Escondido’s JJB Farms Buys More Yolo County Ag Land

By Mark Anderson  – Staff Writer, Sacramento Business Journal,
Mar 8, 2019, 9:40am EST

A Boston private investment fund has bought another large tract of land in Yolo County for $24.2 million, which includes 750 acres of 5-year-old almond orchards and walnut groves.

JJB Farms LP of Escondido has bought another tract of Yolo County farmland, which it will likely convert from row crops to nuts.

The company paid $4.5 million for 322 acres that had been called the Herger Ranch. The property is flat farmland at 17017 County Road 89, just northwest of Madison.

“It’s really good dirt,” said Jeff Dyer, a broker with Farm & Ranch Realty in Woodland. He represented the seller, a family.

Representatives of the buyer, JJB Farms, declined to comment about the purchase.

JJB was founded by Jacob Brouwer, who also owns and operates Superior Ready Mix Concrete LP in Escondido.

In recent years, Brouwer has expanded his investing into agriculture.

The north end of the Herger property is cut across by Cache Creek, which flows west to east. On either side of the farm parcel, Houston-based Cemex USA operates an aggregate and ready mix concrete plant on Cache Creek.

Arnold Veldkamp, corporate counsel for Superior, said the newly purchased property’s proximity to the Cemex plant is a coincidence. He said the JJB Farms purchase is an agricultural investment.

Properties on either side of the Herger property have been converted to almonds and walnuts in recent years, Dyer said, and he expects that is what will happen to this property.

In December, JJB bought a 338-acre Yolo County almond orchard for $7.5 million. That property, on County Road 87 between Esparto and Woodland, had been used up until 2014 by the Hatanaka family to grow tomatoes, sunflower seed plants, alfalfa and wheat, according to county agricultural records.

In the past three years, however, the land has been converted to almonds, said Jim Wirth, farm land broker with TRI Commercial/CORFAC International. Wirth was not the broker for the land’s recent sale, but said he is aware of the deal. Wirth said JJB owns thousands of acres of walnuts, almonds and pistachios in the Central Valley and also to the north.

Almonds have been an increasingly popular crop for California farmers the last two decades because they are a high-value crop which has seen stable prices despite increasing yield. Last year, almond production in the state totaled 2.3 billion pounds, up almost 80 percent from a decade earlier and almost five times the volume produced in 1998, according to figures from the Almond Board of California.

Sacramento-based almond growers’ cooperative Blue Diamond Growers has been driving demand for the crop with new products such as almond milk and different flavors of almonds. The climate in the Central Valley is one of the few on earth that works for commercial cultivation of almonds, and more than 80 percent of the world crop comes from California.

This most recent purchase shows continuing interest from investors from other regions in local farmland as investment properties. In February, Boston-based Hancock Agricultural Investment Group paid $7.1 million for 638 acres of agricultural land in Placer County. In July, Boston-based private equity firm AgIS Capital LLC paid $35 million for part of the former R.H. Phillips Winery property near Esparto, and in October, AgIS paid $24.2 million for some almond orchards near Winters.

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