Farms Owned By The Mormon Church
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a unique program in place to help needy members of their church and to help other people as well. The church grows its own food to be used for needy members; for example, if a church member was temporarily unemployed. The food is also used in times of disaster. An example of this was Hurricane Katrina where much food was donated by the church to victims of Hurricane Katrina. In both cases, both Mormons and others have been helped by food grown on Mormon-owned farms.
Currently, the church owns 64 farms for welfare (i.e. non-profit) purposes. Where are these farms located? Most are found within the United States. Other farms are located in Argentina and Zimbabwe. Where all of these farms are located and the total number of acreage are unknown.
- Where does the money come from to purchase these farms?
- Church members fast, generally on the first Sunday of each month. The money that would have been spent on these two meals is contributed to the church.
- Where does the labor come from?
- Generally, the labor comes from church volunteers who live in the area of the farm. There are few paid employees on these farms.
Food for Those in Need
Virtually every item you can think of is grown on Mormon welfare farms. Oranges and grapefruit are grown at the church's extensive land holdings in Florida. Strawberries and apples grow in Ohio. Tomatoes are raised in the Sacramento, California area. Raisins come from the Fresno, California area. The Mormon Church is thought to be one of the largest potato producers in the United States. The Mormon Church is also believed to be largest producer of nuts in the United States with farms in the San Joaquin Valley in California. Apples are grown in Idaho. Pears grow in Oregon and bean farms are in southern Idaho. Cattle are raised in Florida.
It is believed that the largest farm owned by the Mormon Church is the 312,000 acre ranch in Florida where cattle are raised. Many cattle ranches are owned by the Mormon Church in the western United States, including Deseret Ranch which is located on the Utah-Wyoming border with about 200,000 acres. On one occasion, the Mormon Church stated publicly that it owns 288,000 acres of land in Nebraska, making the Mormon Church one of the largest landowners in Nebraska.
Welfare System Operations
What happens to all of this food? It is shipped by a fleet of trucks owned by the Mormon Church to processing centers and canneries. One of these canneries is found in Aurora, Colorado where a variety of items are canned such as peaches. An example of a church-owned processing center is the one in Mesa, Arizona which produces spaghetti sauce. Next, the food is shipped,again by church-owned trucks, to supermarkets owned by the Mormon Church known as Bishop's Storehouses. The food will be shipped all over the world to help Mormons and non-Mormons alike. Some of the food goes to non-Mormon food banks.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has formed what may be the largest private welfare system in the world. The farms owned by the Mormon Church are an integral part of this welfare system.
An Inside Look at Deseret Ranches in Florida
Deseret Ranches located in Central Florida, is a for profit operation that is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and is not included as part of the normal Humanitarian Efforts of the Church. The ranch spreads over three central Florida counties - Osceola, Orange, and Brevard. 90 ranchers and their families live on the ranch which maintains 44,000 head of beef cattle. Gordon B. Hinckley, the 15th President of the Church, has said, "We have felt that good farms, over a long period, represent a safe investment where the assets of the Church may be preserved and enhanced, while at the same time they are available as an agricultural resource to feed people should there come a time of need."
The Ranches include several organizations including Deseret Ranches of Florida, Deseret Cattle and Citrus, Taylor Creek Management, East Central Florida Services, Agreserves, and Farmland Reserve.
The earliest plans for this ranch were made in 1949. In 1950 the original 45,000 acres were purchased. Deseret Ranch now covers an area 50 by 30 miles, with a separate section surrounding Kenansville in Osceola County. In 2010, the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida (Orange and Seminole Counties) ruled that Deseret owned and had control over the Taylor Creek Reservoir over the St. Johns River Water Management District. In over 50 years, the ranch has grown to over 312,000 acres. Located just 7 miles east of the Orlando International Airport and 19 miles west of Cape Canaveral, Florida, Deseret Ranches is considered to be the largest cow-calf ranch in the United States, and the land which it occupies has an estimated worth of $868 million.
Although The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not disclose the revenue of the ranch, it is known that in year 2000 they moved 16 million pounds of calves, which at the time translated to about $16 million in revenue. In 2008, Deseret Ranch discussed selling part of the property for a development near Orlando, Florida, but the proposed rezoning was withdrawn prior to approval. The Deseret Ranch also brings in revenue from the mining of native shell beds (which is used throughout Florida to pave roads), orange groves, hunting permits, and sales of ornamental palm trees.
- Richard and Joan Ostling, Mormon America-The Power and the Promise, published in 1999 by HarperCollins Publishers in San Francisco, California, pages 113-129
This article was written on 12 September 2007