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For Durbin, that was too much.

His business model calls for getting at least a 3 percent rate of return on his land purchases. If he figures he can get $300 an acre in rent, he has to limit his bidding to $10,000 an acre.

“I don’t have any compelling reason to own land; it’s an investment. I’m looking for mispriced assets and usually I don’t find them,” Durbin said. “I’ve been to probably 200 auctions, and I’ve bid at around 60 of them, and I’ve bought at maybe 10.”

The room got quiet for the final stretch of bidding. After bids for the whole farm reached $1.4 million, the auctioneers took a five-minute break, just to give the remaining interested parties time to confer.

When the bidding resumed, heads in the room swiveled back and forth, like a tennis match, as the Spanglers and the Wingers tried to decide what to do.

Farmers haven’t forgotten the collapse in farm land values in the early 1980s, and neither family knew how high the other was prepared to go.

In the end, Brad Winger didn’t use the word “bargain,” but said he thought the same parcel would have averaged $11,000 an acre last year.

“I think the land is just now starting to soften, to mirror grain prices,” he said. “We’re all wondering when it’s going to happen, and it may happen some more yet.”

He also expressed gratitude that the record profits of the past five years have enabled local farmers to expand their operations.

The Wingers will be farming in Howard County for a long time to come.

Brad and his brother, Steve, who farm together, have three sons between them who are also planning to farm.

“We’ve been pretty blessed to have the success we’ve had,” Brad Winger said.


Information from: Kokomo Tribune,