We've moved!

Social Icons

twitterfacebooklinkedinrss feed

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Stip Auction Tuesday -- Chance to Boost Small Farms?

Advertising hype usually sets off my B.S. meter. When someone tells me a sale will be the "Absolute Auction of the Decade," I'm naturally skeptical.

Wieman Auction of Marion is making this claim straight-faced about the Stip Brothers estate auction Tuesday right here in Lake County. They may not be exaggerating. This auction is a "complete dispersal" of the accumulated farm wealth of Milo, Art, and Don Stip. The auction bill takes up nearly a full page of the Madison Daily Leader (and remember, MDL pages are still the good full size pages, not those wimpy skinny pages you get from that Sioux Falls paper). The Stip brothers had no wives or kids to spend their money on, so they bought equipment. Lots and lots of equipment, more than they could use themselves. Tractors, skidloaders, payloaders, excavators, semis, trucks, a Hummer (2006 H2, 12K+ miles, current bid $8750)... almost all with low hours or low miles. On auction day, the farm headquarters six miles south of town, 23989 454th Avenue, will look more like an implement dealership.

There's already all sorts of out-of-state interest and online buzz about the auction. I won't even begin to calculate how much all that equipment would sell for. But look ahead two weeks to the land sale, December at the Davison County Fairgrounds just west of Mitchell. 3356.37 acres of "mostly all tillable land" across six counties with some of the highest land values in South Dakota. At the rate for cropland calculated by SDSU in June 2009, the land could sell for over $10 million.

No word on the auction bill as to whether the land for sale includes the ditches Stips illegally filled. Buyer beware... and check with the courthouse!

Now just a wild thought: Imagine how many small farms we could equip with this enormous stock of machinery accumulated by just three old codgers. Imagine if we could take the 21 quarters of the Stip estate and turn it into 21 farms, where 21 families could make a living off the land. Sure, big land barons contribute to the local economy, but 21 new independent farm families would contribute even more, each building good homes, each sending kids to school, each buying groceries and gas in town, each bringing their own human capital to community activities and volunteer organizations.

Imagine if there were a visionary developer who could scoop up just the quarters here in Lake County and a portion of the equipment, divide the tracts, and market the land to folks eager to make a living in intensive human-scale farming. All those new families... all those kids bringing state money to the school district....

I don't need a tractor, but I'll probably drop by the Stip auction Tuesday to wonder at three men's riches. But I'll also wonder how much richer Lake County would be with men and women for each of those machines... or even every dozen of those machines.


  1. Did these brothers ever give anything back to the community? Does all the dough from these two sales go to a bunch of ungrateful nieces and nephews or did these guys have the foresight to set up a community foundation to provide funding to local good causes.

    By my count there were 15 late model tractors all with extremely low hours. Usually way less than 100 hours/year. In some cases less than 10 hours/year. I bought a new tractor in 1998. It has about 6000 hours on it now. That works out to about 500 hours/year and it's still in excellent condition.

    These guys and others like them fueled the run up in land prices that has priced so many young wannabe farmers out of the business.

  2. I saw that auction bill in the Broadcaster here (where it did take up a full page).

    My initial thought was that much of that equipment is too large for any kind of "human scale" farming that you mention.

    But hey, the smaller, older stuff sitting in the hedgerows that might be useful if you can find or make the parts will go cheap and be far more useful.

  3. look for more land auctions to come. these three guys owned slightly more than 8,700 acres just in lake county.


  4. Steve Sibson11/30/2009 9:23 AM


    Perhaps we should research how much in total farm subsidies they received from the federal government and then calculate what percentage that would be of the final total auction proceeds. Then we will see just how much impact the federal goverment's inference into the free markets contributes to the demise of the small family farmer.

  5. Already been there, Sibby. I'm not finding the Stip name in the Environmental Working Group database. Any other search suggestions?

  6. If I heard right the Stips didn't receive federal money because they choose not to comply with the regulations of the farm bill.

    The Hummers at $10,250.

  7. Cory,

    Based on commets from another of your posts (which I accidently posted commented on), Randall Ag Ventures seems to be the tie in to Stip. Not sure how. If true, they received nearly $2 million between 1995 & 2006.

    And we also need to add the Federal Reserve's low interest rate policy to the problem of over-priced land...and our over-priced homes.

  8. And if it is true that Stips managed to create this much wealth without federal subsidies, then why do we need federal subsidies?

  9. My pops was thinking of checking out the 2006 Pete... three years old and only 1100 miles on it?!?! That doesn't even qualify for "Sunday Driver" mileage!

  10. Sibby,

    Sometimes you have to throw out the extremes when you form an opinion. Without being negative, the Stips are an extreme (their dogs would puncture your tires). That said, farmers I know wish big brother would get out of farming, although we need him to watch certain thing like conservation (drill baby drill, tile baby tile).

    As far as Randall Farms, they rented Stip land as they did many others, so if I remember right Stip land was excluded from federal payments. The payments you see are from other sources.

  11. Steve, you will get no argument from me that the Federal Farm Program has helped fuel the run up in land prices and helped make the big bigger.

  12. Steve Sibson11/30/2009 7:11 PM


    Thanks for the insight. ANd with Nick's admission, I think we are all in agrement that the farm subsidies are not a good thing. Unfortunately, our federal representatiives on both sides seem to think they are good. I suppose the debate is not about wethere we have them or not. The fight is over how much of the pie they get for their state.

    Is it possible to stop the greed?

  13. O.K. Sibby, now you're just messing with us. That last comment sounded perfectly reasonable. No sweeping generalizations about government action, just a focus on the practical issue of farm subsidies. And agreement all around—must be the holiday spirit!

    Or maybe just common sense. It sounds like we all agree that this is one case where government intervention in the market is doing more harm than good. It may be possible to stop the greed, Steve, but only if we keep spreading the word and get all the farmers who see the damage done by to speak up.

  14. Steve Sibson12/01/2009 7:44 PM


    We will stop the freed by following the direction you will find in a Dave Welch column I will be posting tomorrow. The title will be "Secularists only end is anarchy".


Comments are closed, as this portion of the Madville Times is in archive mode. You can join the discussion of current issues at MadvilleTimes.com.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.