Sunderman Farm acquires Taylor Land Management
By CHAD THOMPSON
When Sunderman Farm Management Co. acquired Taylor Land Management in January, it didn’t spell retirement for Brent Taylor, the former owner of Taylor Land Management.
Instead, Taylor has joined Sunderman Farm as a certified rural appraiser. And he plans to stick around for as long as it takes to help with the transition between the two firms.
“The transition time is 3 to 5 years,” said Taylor, who has 40-plus years of farm management experience. “I want there to be plenty of time that my clients get to know the Larsons and the farms. We have had some relationships with clients for 25 to 30 years – you just don’t walk away from them.”
For Brian Larson, president of Sunderman Farm; and Brent Larson, vice president, the acquisition made a lot of sense from their perspective.
“We needed a rural appraiser that was certified and Brent had one and was interested in selling,” Brian Larson said.
Brent Larson, the son of Brian Larson, described the move as “a natural fit.”
“The appraisal work goes hand-in-hand with what we do,” Brent Larson said. “The great thing he had that we didn’t was the ability to appraise the land.”
And Taylor said the two firms had a good relationship from past years.
“I’ve known Brian for years,” Taylor said. “We have always been friends and friendly competitors.”
Sunderman Farm deals in professional farm management.
“That relates to folks who are absentee land owners and need someone to manage their farmland investment,” Brent Larson said. “We manage the farmland from selling grain, the cropping practices, working with the farm service agencies…We are the middle man between the land owner and the farmer.”
Other services provided by Sunderman Farm include certified appraisal and rural real estate sales.
“There’s a good demand for certified appraisals,” Taylor said. “You have to be licensed. We do them for estates for divorces or family splits of land – sometimes friendly, sometimes not. We work with investors.”
Taylor made one clear distinction in terms of appraisals.
“We are just rural appraisers,” Brent Taylor said. “We do farmland and acreages, not houses (in the city).”
The Sunderman Farm Management team includes Mark Thompson, farm manager and real estate salesperson; Jon Larson, real estate salesperson; Jon Flattery, certified appraiser; and Jenene Friedrichs, office manager. Marilyn Ropte, a longtime associate of Taylor’s, has also joined the Sunderman team.
The office is located at 1309 First Ave. S, Suite 5.
Part of the profession involves staying educated on the latest farm practices.
In January, Brent Larson and Mark Thompson attended a soil health session at the Practical Farmers of Iowa conference.
“We work a lot with conservation,” Larson said. “Soil conserving practices – no tillage, reduced tillage and cover crops. We are working on a three-crop rotation. We experiment on our own farmland to gain experience for our clients and talk to them to see if they want to try something like this.”
According to Brent Larson, Sunderman manages about 150 different properties scattered throughout northwestern Iowa.
He said the properties are predominantly located in Calhoun, Humboldt and Webster counties.
When a client chooses to work with Sunderman, Brent Larson said a big part of the job is becoming educated about that particular property.
“We learn everything we can about the farm because we need to be as knowledgeable as the owner,” Brent Larson said. “We want to cover all the topics that need to be covered. We also want to learn about the owner’s philosophy – how do they want to take care of the land? We want to do what they want to do because they are our boss.”
Brian Larson said the key in farm management is trust.
“Personal relationships are so important in this business,” Brian Larson said, who will have 51 years of experience in March. “If they don’t trust us, they should find someone else. You need trust.”
Sunderman has been located in its current office since about 2009.
The company’s history dates back to 1961.
“Mr. (Roger) Sunderman started this business all by himself,” Brian Larson said. “He didn’t even have a secretary. He did his own typing for the first few years.”
Brian Larson joined Sunderman in 1969 and purchased the company in 1988.
“Mr. Sunderman used to tell me in this business, gray hair is an asset,” Brian Larson said. “Well, you can’t help it. This business gives you gray hair.”
As farmland gets passed down, Brent Larson, a U.S. Air Force reservist, said it’s important to let people know what they have.
“We work to make sure the next generation is informed,” Brent Larson said. “We will meet and help them appreciate the farm they have.”
Taylor, who moved to Fort Dodge in 1983, said things like, “Dad died and we don’t know what to do with the farm,” are examples of situations that arise.
“A lot of people remember grandma and grandpa’s farm and as they get older they don’t go as often,” Taylor said. “But sometimes they end up with a farm. They remember going and playing down by the creek. That’s the tie they have and they have the financial side to it – they need to be informed.”
Brian Larson likes to keep it simple for clients.
“I tell people if you let us manage your farm, you only have to do two things – read our report and cash your check,” Brian Larson said.
Brian Larson bought his own farm 5 miles north of Fort Dodge 1972.
“I didn’t think it would be a very good farm at the time,” Brian Larson said. “Had a steep pasture. But it turns out to be a blessing. It was a place kids could go down to the river and fish. The hog house was still there. We had some cows and calves.”
And now Brent Larson is raising his children on the same farm.
“I am raising my three boys on the same family farm,” Brent Larson said. “It’s a fun place for the kids to grow up.”
Brent Larson joined Sunderman in 2005 after serving active duty in the air force.
In terms of clients, Taylor said, “We do have a lot of female clients because women sometimes outlive men..”
Brian Larson finished the sentence by adding, “And end up with all the money.”
Taylor said he enjoys the work.
“None of us have hobbies,” Taylor said. “We enjoy going out in the country and looking at a farm. You get the first 65 degree day and no one will be in the office. We’ll all be out in the country.”
Brent Larson added, “This is such a dynamic profession, from agronomy to marketing. But one of the best parts is the relationship you cultivate with your clients. To take them to their farm and get that connection with their land.”
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