LDS Inc. owns .7% of Florida

My brother-in-law came to visit last weekend. As science geeks, we tried to see a shuttle launch while he was here (the launch was canceled 11 minutes before liftoff because of weather – ugh!). On the way to watch the launch we stopped by Deseret Citrus and Cattle Ranch to see the Mormon Church’s ranching operations:

sign by main entrance
sign by main entrance

Alas, as former Mormons, we failed to consider that they wouldn’t offer tours on Sunday. But we stopped by the Visitor’s Center anyway and drove around a bit. Here’s the Visitor’s Center:

the Visitor's Center
the Visitor's Center

I knew from the Deseret Ranches’ website and this wikipedia page that the ranch was big, but actually driving around the ranch made me wonder just how big it is. So, I spent a good 10 hours or so trying to see if I could map out just how big the ranch is. After all that time, I realized it was simply too big for me to easily map out by myself. But, the research I did do provided me with some fascinating information.

First off, thanks to a corporation registration website in Florida, I was able to track the name changes of the holding companies for the ranch over the years, eventually finding the current name. It used to be Deseret Properties of Florida, Inc., Deseret Farms, Inc., Deseret Farms Inc., Deseret Ranches of Florida, Inc., Deseret Livestock Company, Deseret Properties of Florida, Inc., Deseret Ranches of Florida, Inc. (1), Deseret Ranches of Florida, Inc. (2), but it is now called Farmland Reserve, Inc.. Once I finally found the current holding company, I was able to visit the property tax appraisers’ websites for the three main counties where the ranch is located: Osceola, Orange, and Brevard. On those sites I found all the property listings of Farmland Reserve, Inc. Here’s a summary of what I found after I added them all up:

County Acres Value
Osceola 182,685.50 $763,252,812.00
Orange 64,843.57 $208,286,252.00
Brevard 41,559.66 $12,552,680.00
Hillsborough-FRI 3,952.94 $30,145,012.00
Total 293,041.67 $1,014,236,756.00

Yep, you’re eyes do not deceive you – LDS, Inc. has more than $1 billion in for-profit property in Florida. The acres convert to 457 square miles, or .7% of the State of Florida. I can’t say for certain, but my guess is that LDS, Inc. is the largest landholder in the state behind the government. For comparative purposes, Disney owns 25,000 acres (that’s all of their properties, not just Disney World), or about 1/12th of the land owned by the LDS, Inc. holding company.

To tally all of this information, I actually built a spreadsheet that you’re welcome to download and peruse. I also started drawing the land parcels in Google Earth, but once I realized just how many there were, I decided I just didn’t have the time. I did complete all the land in Orange County and started on the land in Osceola County. If you want to see the maps or, better yet, if you’d like to improve/complete the maps, you can download them here: Orange County, Osceola County. If you do download them and improve them, please send me a copy of the updated versions as I’d like to have them.

As I was searching through these listings, on a whim I decided to see if Farmland Reserve, Inc. owned any property in my county, Hillsborough, FL, which is all the way across the state from Osceola and Brevard Counties. Turns out they do (see above table). That’s in addition to the $12 million owned by “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Corporation”, which is the company that holds the churches. This makes me wonder just how much property Farmland Reserve Inc. owns. I checked a couple additional counties in Florida but didn’t find any more property.

One of the reasons I wanted to visit the ranch is because my aunt and uncle recently completed a mission there (I should have gone while they were there, but never made it). The amazing thing about the fact that they served a mission there is that they did zero proselytizing and they paid to serve their mission. So, what did they do? My uncle was a high school shop teacher. He knows how to build and repair homes. So, they put him to work building homes on the ranch. He’s round 70 years old and was working 12 hour days 6 days a week for 18 months. His wife ran some of the tours and did other odd jobs around the ranch. When I found out that my aunt and uncle were paying for the opportunity to work for Farmland Reserve, Inc., a billion dollar for profit company, I was not very happy. Not only did the LDS Church use tithing money to buy the ranch (I’m assuming, maybe it was profit from some other business venture), but now it makes people pay for the opportunity to make one of their subsidiaries money. How is that at all ethical?

To wit, the obvious question is: How does the billion dollar ranching operation of the LDS Church further its religious aims? Why does a religion need a billion dollar ranch? Anyone?

Finally, all this searching around for property owned by LDS, Inc. led me to realize that we, the MSP community, could probably put together a pretty good estimate of the property holdings of LDS, Inc. (in the US at least) fairly easily if we distributed the work among us. If each person looked up the holdings of LDS, Inc. in their county and put them in a spreadsheet, we could aggregate them and keep a running total of known property value of the LDS religion. It would make a cool little widget for MSP to display. Thoughts?

Published by

profxm

I'm a college professor and, well, a professional X-Mormon. Thus, ProfXM. I love my Mormon family, but have issues with LDS Inc. And I'm not afraid to tell LDS Inc. what I really think... anonymously, of course!

258 thoughts on “LDS Inc. owns .7% of Florida

  1. and what about the Kirtland Safety Society scandal and no one mentions they were run out by OTHER Mormons for taking their land and money

  2. Regarding the last couple of pages of comments:

    This site doesn’t have a specific policy against thread-jacks. However if two commenters debate tangents for too long, it kind of kills the discussion for everyone else. In the interest of constructive discussion, please wrap it up, thanks.

  3. oh i am done just this last part
    Deseret Management Corporation is the holding company which owns the tax-paying companies that fall under the umbrella of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. DMC’s Board of Directors is made up of the church’s First Presidency, three rotating members of the Quorum of the Twelve, and the Presiding Bishopric.

  4. I worked the ranch as a cowboy from 1975 to 1977 and it was a great place to work and had really nice people to work with. I don’t understand what’s troubling ya’ll over the churches holdings, but I can tell you that if the church didn’t own and preserve this beautiful property, it would go the way of the rest of old Florida and be settled by snowbirds who have no respect for the old Florida. So if I was ya’l, I would just leave them be, unless your like most everyone else that would rather see sub divisions and cities sprout up where it used to be natural landscape. The first cowboys of this great nation came from Florida and that historical fact is getting further lost to generations, the more ranches fall to developers (rapers of the world).

  5. I know of of LDS church owned farms and ranches in various states, from Oklahoma to Idaho and have seen both sides of the coin on this one. These ranches and farms are places of employment for local people in the community were they are located but that is not the main reason they are there. In states where there are a low LDS population (such as Florida and Oklahoma), missionaries (preferably retired) may come in and work to give tours of facilities. Another benefit of the farms is that people on church welfare can work on the farms to earn a living until full time employment is available. The end result is that church members can turn to our families, then to each other in times of need rather than looking for a handout from our government.

  6. The LDS church doesn’t use tithing in it’s for proffit ventures. Tithing goes to the support of its churches and spreading the gospel.

    As far as senior couples paying to serve missions, they only pay for their own living expenses. Nothing goes to the church.

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