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.
Bexley Ranch Land Trust sold nearly 7,000 acres of its land holdings along the Suncoast Parkway in Pasco County to California-based Newland Communities over the past decade, which started construction at Bexley Ranch in 2014.
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."
The property is located on S.R. 60 in Kenansville and has nearly 1.8 miles of lakefront on Lake Marian. It was part of the original Adams Ranch property, which shares a border. And it abuts the 63,000-acre Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area on the west side.
"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."
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