Tom Campbell, seated at an office table, gestures with his outstretched hands.  The photo was taken after attending the January 6, 2021 rally for President Donald Trump in Washington, DC

Entity linked to billionaire Bill Gates pays $13.5 million for Campbell Farms farmland in North Dakota – Agweek

GRAFTON, ND – An entity associated with Bill Gates, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft, appears to have purchased approximately 2,100 acres of farmland in North Dakota’s northern Red River Valley as part of a deal quietly concluded with the owners of Campbell Farms, a potato farming group headquartered in Grafton, North Dakota, last November.

No one is involved in the case seems can’t wait to talk about it.

Public records show the transaction is worth about $13.5 million, with an approximate average price across two counties of $6,400 per acre. Transfers from Pembina County come down to about $6,600 per acre. Walsh County documents are complicated by river boundaries, but the sale price is around $6,000.

Pembina’s records show that the “transferors” (sellers) are the brothers “William T. (“Bill”) Campbell, a married individual, Gregory T. (“Greg”) Campbell, a married individual and Thomas S. (” Tom”). Campbell, a single individual. Agweek left phone messages, emails and text messages for Tom and Greg and visited Bill’s offices at Campbell Properties, Fargo, with no response.

Tom Campbell, seated at an office table, gestures with his outstretched hands.  The photo was taken after attending the January 6, 2021 rally for President Donald Trump in Washington, DC

Tom Campbell is the eldest of a trio of brothers (along with Greg and Bill) from Campbell Farms, a potato company since 1978 based in Grafton, North Dakota. Photo taken January 14, 2021 in Grafton, North Dakota.

Mikkel Pates / Agweek

Land not irrigated on November 2 and 3, 2021 was transferred to Red River Trust, with trustee Peter Headley. The trust is located at 8789 Penrose Lane, Suite, 400, Lenexa, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City, Kansas. This is the same address as Cottonwood Ag, or Cottonwood Farms, and Oak River Farms/Midwest. Agweek called Oak River Farms, which did not return the call.

Meanwhile, an entity called Red River Trust was filed with the office of the North Dakota Secretary of State on February 15, 2022, with an address of 15111 Highway 17, Grafton, which is the Campbell Farms address.

A Wall Street Journal in 2015 said that in 1994, Bill and Melinda Gates hired Michael Larson, who operated through Cascade Investment LLC, to diversify the family portfolio away from Microsoft. Larson told the Wall Street Journal he had acquired “100,000 acres of farmland” across multiple states. The “Land Report 100” newsletter would later estimate the investment to be more than double that amount and say he owns more farmland than anyone in America. Part of it was in Canada.

According to AgriInvestor, Cottonwood Ag Management is an agricultural asset management team for BMGI/Cascade Management.

Headley, in his LinkedIn profile, identifies himself as the head of agricultural investment management for Investment Management Co., since April 2017. Headley was previously managing director of agricultural investments for MetLife in Overland Park, Kansas, from 2007 to 2017 , and before that was regional director of Citigroup/Travelers for almost 15 years.

In a 2020 article on farmland investing by NFU Mutual Charitable Trust, the authors said Headley ran “Cottonwood”, which they described as a farmland investment platform for Bill and Melinda Gates.

The article described an increased interest by “very wealthy individuals in owning farmland” and questioned whether this was good for small farmers. North Dakota has anti-farm business laws, but entities can legally form “limited liability partnerships” in which corporate money is not involved.

A large sign indicating the location of the farm indicates "Campbell Farms," with its logo including a potato leaf.

Campbell Farms headquarters is located just east of Grafton, ND in Walsh County, ND. A trio of Campbell brothers in November 2021 sold around 2,100 acres for $13.5 million to entities associated with billionaire Bill Gates. The farm continues to operate on the same land. Photo taken on January 14, 2021.

Mikkel Pates / Agweek

Regardless of any land ownership status, Campbell Farms, on its website, appears to be continuing its potato cultivation, including on the land affected by the agreement. The Campbells did not make themselves available to discuss details of the sale, including whether there were any sale-leaseback agreements.

According to their farm’s website, Bill and Tom started Campbell Farms in 1978 with a $9,000 loan. Greg joined two years later. According to their website, the farm operates in Big Lake, Minnesota, west of Minneapolis, and Grafton, north and west of Grand Forks, North Dakota.

The company markets itself as a “fully integrated supplier of fresh table potatoes all year round”. They produce fresh organic red potatoes, as well as premium red and yellow potatoes. The website lists the three brothers as the management team and Jerel Lindgren as farm manager and Thomas Campbell II as manager of Big Lake Farms.

Tom Campbell, 63, is also a former North Dakota lawmaker who unsuccessfully sought office across the state, including cut short attempts to secure the Republican nomination for the seats currently held by Sen. Kevin Cramer and the Representative Kelly Armstrong.

In his congressional efforts, Tom presented himself as a potato farmer, but his advertisements downplayed his former role as chairman of the board and shareholder of Choice Financial Bank. On January 6, 2021, at the urging of conservative radio personality Scott Hennen, Tom flew to Washington, D.C., where he attended the then infamous Presidential Rally. Donald Trump, which turned into a burglary and insurrection of the Capitol.

Campbell later told Agweek he was not a strong Trump supporter and did not believe his trade policies were good for agriculture. Tom said he was in the air, flying back to North Dakota, before learning the event had turned violent.

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