Skip to comments.LDS Church ranch making big impact in Florida
Posted on 06/15/2011 9:09:38 AM PDT by Colofornian
ST. CLOUD, Fla. Most Utahns are unaware that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints owns one of the biggest ranches in the country and it's nowhere near the Beehive State.
Because of its prominent location, millions have seen the ranch without realizing what it was. But managers are opening the curtain; they have a message they want the public to hear.
From St. Cloud to:
Orlando Airport: 10 miles
Kennedy Space Center: 15 miles
Magic Kingdom: 22 miles
The cowboys are up before dawn, but this is not the Old West.
They ride out into Florida fog to punch cows a lot of cows. In all, there are 44,000 of them, producing over 30,000 calves each year.
"It's good cattle country. At times it can be a hard environment to run cattle in," said David Genho, cattle development manager at the Deseret Cattle and Citrus Ranch.
Over the decades, the cattle have been specially bred at the ranch to thrive in a tropical climate.
Along with the cattle, the ranch has groves and groves of citrus fruit. Every year, it produces enough oranges to make 50 million glasses of orange juice.
Deseret Cattle & Fruit
- 500 billion gallons of rain fall the ranch receives annually (1.5 times the volume of Utah Lake)
- 290-300,000 acres (450 sq. miles)
* 165,000 acres of pasture land
* 75,000 acres of wetlands
* 60,000 acres of timber
* 1,700 acres of citrus orchards (producing 50 million 8 oz glasses of orange juice annually)
* 920 acres of row crops (450 acres of potatoes for Frito Lay Chips)
- 44,000 cows
- 33,000 calves born annually
- 1,400 bulls
- 1,400 miles of fencing
- 380+ documented species of vertebrate animals- many threatened or endangered
* 245 birds
* 53 fish
* 33 reptiles
* 31 mammals
* 20 amphibians
- 90 employees
- 61 years of operation (acquired in 1950)
- 45 hunting clubs have rights to use land
But there's also a profusion of wildlife. To see it all you have to walk through jungles, or take a wild ride on an airboat across a thriving aquatic habitat where you run a pretty good chance of getting crossways with an alligator.
"Occasionally they'll take a calf; and just last week one of our cowboys had his favorite dog that went down to get a drink and that was the last of him," said David Wright, environmental affairs manager at the ranch.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints acquired the property in 1950, and Florida grew up around it.
"Just the scale of it is hard to grasp," said environmental consultant W. Michael Dennis. "We're in this remote area, but yet it's still very close to all the urban centers of central Florida."
It's not far from Disney World, for one. It covers nearly 300,000 acres more than 450 square miles spanning much of the distance from the Orlando airport to the Kennedy Space Center.
Urbanization is creating challenges "with the pressures for water, the pressures for land, the pressures for transportation corridors," Dennis said.
As legal and political controversy rises over those issues, ranch managers are now proudly displaying what they've done for the environment.
"The ranch has been a good steward of this land for 60 years," Dennis said.
The ranch won a Florida environmental leadership award for creating a one square mile wetlands reservoir to purify storm water runoff.
"The natural wetland vegetation takes up any nutrients that are found in the water; the nutrient levels are already very low," said Erik Jacobsen, general manager of the ranch.
The reservoir is now a haven for wildlife. "We've documented over 380 species on the ranch. Some are protected and some are rare," Jacobsen said.
They created a rookery, a nesting area, for thousands of birds by re-landscaping. It created island sanctuaries protected from predators by a moat full of alligators.
"We want to protect the environment; and that's been part of our responsibility since we've been here," Genho said.
On a broad scale, they've achieved an award-winning stewardship approach with a carefully designed mosaic of wetlands, pasture and timberland.
"Just the nature of our ranching operations is a huge benefit to the surrounding area because of the diversity of habitat it creates for wildlife," Jacobsen said. "It creates a huge area for groundwater recharge."
Rather than pumping precious groundwater, ranch managers capture and use surface water almost entirely. The ranch is currently battling a lawsuit that's aimed at turning over some of that water to surrounding communities.
"I think through cooperation we can come up with solutions that will be able to sustain the water supply in the area for years to come," said James Payne, manager of properties at the ranch.
Recently the ranch was honored for its environmental stewardship of the land. It won a "best in the region" award from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.
From the article: Most Utahns are unaware that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints owns one of the biggest ranches in the country and it's nowhere near the Beehive State. [click for map]
From the article: ...450 acres of potatoes for Frito Lay Chips...
...Now that's a real healthy physical and spiritual mission field for the Mormons!
It would be nice if more churches owned and worked ranches instead of whining for more government handouts and helping settle Muslim terrorists in America as my former denomination (ELCA) does.
Amazingly, over 275 pair were made over the course
of three weeks. A record that still stands to this day.
As much as I like individual Mormons I’ve known, am I the only one this seems a bit cultish to? If it’s church owned, is it tax-free?
Also, many retired Mormons come at their own expense to work this and other Lds ranches...(Lds owns other similar ag ranches in states like Idaho and Washington). So yes, this ranch has employees...but notice it has less than 100 for a 300,000 acre ranch.
(And, of course, Lds, Inc. is a cult)
This seems like a prime example of willful abuse of the tax-exemption for churches. How has their business affected other, similar businesses in the area that have to pay their own taxes, plus make up for the taxes not paid by the LDS church ranch? Their environmental stewardship is great, and, knowing the general intelligence of Mormons, I’d expect is well run, but all that just seems like window-dressing on something unsellable when you actually look at it closely.
They also have mooses and llamas.
Thanks for the information. I posted before seeing your response, otherwise I would have included you for my post above to scvw. If Romney gets in, I’m sure we can expect even more of this nonsense.
It mentions: LDS, Inc. has more than $1 billion in for-profit property in Florida -- and breaks that down by counties in Florida.
Thanks for the link - reading it now. I get the feeling reigning them in is going to make bringing Scientology to account look like a cake walk.
Well, you've hit just the surface.
Here's an example of what you're talking about with the ag competition in Idaho: Farmers face off with LDS Church
The "non-profit" LDS church creates problems even with Mormon farmers w/their commercial produce enterprise!
Note this quote from an LDS church member:
Declo farmer Mark Darrington, however, is also concerned the church intended to take over management and does not see that as being in the best interest of his community. "I am an active member of the Mormon Church, but facts is facts, he said. I did not want them to turn this into a big corporate farm because of the impact on the local community. For one, he said, local vendors are bypassed. I think that puts a bad taste not just in non-members mouth but also in members mouth. ...He said the church setting up a large entity and garnering large potato contracts would have an adverse effect...The church tends to not cooperate with growers, he said. Source: Farmers face off with LDS Church
So the Lds church grows all these potatoes in Idaho and Florida and sells them with large contracts to Frito Lays for unhealthy potato chips!
(I'll think I'll be buying less cult-laced Frito products for family gatherings in the future)
I found the following information on wikipedia, so take it for what it's worth:
The remaining assets include direct investments in for-profit businesses managed through Deseret Management Corporation. Although the LDS church is a tax-exempt organization, its for-profit entities generate "unrelated business income" that is subject to federal, state, and local income and other taxes.
Subsidiaries of Deseret Management Corporation
Agriculture - Farmland Reserve Inc.
Farmland Reserve Inc. - over 312,000 acres (1,260 km²) in Florida (dba Deseret Cattle and Citrus).
There's nothing here to see. Move along smartly now...
My sister has never even gotten CLOSE to a llama, after that moose thing...
Yes tax-free, and yes this ranch takes full advantage of it’s tax free status in unincorporated Orange and Volusia county.
What I especially love is the toll road (528) running through the heart of their community has an exit for their residential neighborhoods that is EZPass ONLY, meaning no toll booth attendant, no coin receptacles, and no way to legally exit the highway without a prepaid EZPass transformer.
And their local LEO sit right at the exit ramp all day and tail any out of area cars that exit there.
Got pulled over twice in the same spot on this exit... the ranch allows hiking on one corner of their property as a right of way for a larger trail system, and there is supposedly legal parking at a trailhead, however, it is “highly frowned upon son for outsiders to come here snooping around”. I was living less than 10 miles from there at the time too.
The area is a beautiful hike in the dry season though.
I’d heard of other churches doing things like this elsewhere, an example being the Seventh Day Adventists in Australia and their consumer food products, but there doesn’t seem to be any comparison with this. Milk before meat I guess - none of the Mormons I’ve talked to, and there have been a few in powerful positions, mentioned any of this.
I wonder if Jesus hung out with the Seminoles too.
Sort of puts to the lie your contention that these for-profit businesses are tax exempt, doesn't it?
FWIW, the ECLA owns for-profit businesses such as insurance companies and non-profit businesses such as nursing homes.
Taxes are paid on the former, but not the later (except payroll taxes). Colleges which operate for-profit businesses pay taxes on them as well. Even if the owner-operator of said business is a non-profit organization.
If you or I operate a ranch which produces food which is sold into the for-profit market, tax is payable on any profits. If the food is distributed to a non-profit food pantry or its equivalent, then it is tax-exempt. It really isn't all that complicated. The same laws which apply to your state university or the ELCA also apply to the LDS chuch. Annoying, isn't it? < / sarcasm >