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Discussion on New-to-Polk Agricultural Crop Will Kick Off Land Conference

February 13, 2020 News

Understanding how hemp crops can impact Polk County land is a topic of the upcoming annual Lay of the Land Conference.

This year’s annual Lay of the Land conference will begin with Kirk Goble, a broker for The Bell 5 Land Company who will talk about the hemp industry, something we should all be thinking about, according to Dean Saunders, managing director and owner of SVN Saunders Ralston Dantzler Real Estate.

“What are we going to do with all this citrus acreage going out?” he asked. “We have lost 400,000 acres in the last 10 years. What will it become? It can’t all become houses. What alternative crops can there be?”

“I want people to know what they may not know, ask questions of somebody,” said Saunders, who is also vice president of the nationwide Realtors Land Institute. “Kirk can talk about the places to market it, get it sold. Those kinds of things. It’s an issue that’s on people’s mind.”

SVN Saunders Ralston Dantzler Real Estate has been organizing the Lay of the Land Conference since about 2005 to provide statewide landowners, policymakers, investors and other industry partners with the most accurate, current data about the Florida land market, Saunders said.

The 2020 conference will be held Feb. 27 and 28 at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland.

To register:


Saunders said his company started the conference to provide information to those in the field across the state. The first conference featured the person who did the University of Florida’s annual survey of agricultural land values.

The event was not held for several years after the recession of 2008. But, during the conference’s hiatus, Saunders realized that his firm could move past the survey and provide actual sales data, which SVN tracks and confirms, on ranchland, farmland, citrus groves, recreational land, timberland, residential development, transitional land and conservation easements.

“There is a lot of data on commercial real estate, but it was really hard to find accurate information on agriculture and transitional land, the kind of land we specialize in,” Saunders said. “We developed relationships with the ag community over the years, timber, citrus, ranch, farms, throughout the state. I want to help them with whatever their needs are, selling commercial property, selling ag land, managing land, places to hunt. We are a full-service brokerage firm, but our specialty is working with landowners.”

Saunders said the report paid for itself in the first year.

“Our firm has become the market authority on land sales in the state of Florida,” Saunders said. “We publish the report and send it to targeted landowners throughout the state, people we want to do business with.”

Conference Lineup

In addition to Goble, this year’s conference features the following speakers:

  • Marian P. Johnson, executive director of the Florida Chamber Political Institute.
  • Kevin Maggiacomo, president and CEO of SVN.
  • Gary Ralston, managing director of SVN.
  • Mark Vitner, managing director and senior economist with Wells Fargo Securities.

There will also be a panel discussion on water management and several breakout sessions and Saunders will wrap up the conference by presenting this year’s report on land values.

He remains optimistic about the economy, but he doesn’t have blinders on.

“Right now, I’m feeling it’s wide open. I’ve done this long enough to know that economies cycle. This will at some point need to have a correction. But I don’t know when that will be. I don’t see any headwinds on the horizon.”



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