One of the Tampa Bay area's last standing cattle ranching families paid $18.5 million last week for the 7,050-acre 4H Ranch in south Osceola County.
That Pasco master planned community is approved for more than 20,000 homes, plus thousands of apartments, commercial uses and an office park. The Bexley Ranch Land Trust sold another 1,700 acres to Newland on Sept. 1 for $18.9 million. That sale closed just days before the purchase of the 4H Ranch.
Trustee and fourth generation rancher Bryan C. Bexley told GrowthSpotter his family still owns thousands of acres in Pasco County that his great-grandfather bought in 1949. In 2015, other members of the Bexley family retained Avison Young to market the 6,400 acres of the original ranch, rebranded as "Angeline."
"Because of all the growth in Pasco, we were looking to continue in the cattle business," he said. "It's kind of being phased out in Pasco, so we have to go someplace a little more conducive to ranching."
The 4H Ranch had been on the market for three years and was priced at $21 million. Dean Saunders, founding broker of CBC Saunders Real Estate, specializes in large agricultural land sales and represented 4H Ranch in the sale.
"It's located in the Kissimmee River basin, right in the heart of cattle country," Saunders said. "It's where a lot of the crackers settled here in Florida. You've got some of the old ranching families, like the Bronsons, the Whaleys and the Adams all right in that valley."
Saunders said the buyers had very specific needs. "They're cattlemen, and they enjoy the business," he said. "They wanted to stay in the business."
"So it's never going to be developed," Saunders said.
Adams Ranch has sold conservation easements to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission and to the Department of Agriculture's Rural and Family Lands Protection Program. So it will continue to operate as a ranch in perpetuity.
The 4H Ranch is also irrigated for sod and cattle, and was previously leased for recreational hunting. It includes a small hunting lodge and FAA licensed grass airstrip.
Bexley said his family's focus will be solely on the cattle business. "We're not going to allow hunting on the property," he said. "We're in the business of raising cattle, so we'll stick to that."
It was the ranch's potential to accommodate the grazing requirements that sold Bexley on the 4H Ranch. "It fit our needs perfectly," he said. "A lot of properties we looked at, I don't think there were a whole lot of people looking at them with the intention of being cattle ranchers."