Billionaires and celebrities want to be farmers too.
Russell Crowe owns a 400-acre farm in Australia. Also in Australia, actress Nicole Kidman raises Black Angus cattle. Mark Ruffalo grows strawberries on a former dairy farm.
Sometimes actor Brad Pitt calls himself a farmer since he owns a winery in France. Many actors buy up rural property and then buy some chickens. Oprah Winfrey, Hillary Swank, Julia Roberts and Miley Cyrus all own chickens but on a small scale. On the extravagant end, CNN founder Ted Turner owns thousands of acres of land and at one time owned 15 ranches in seven states.
But Bill Gates, Microsoft co-founder and the fourth most wealthy person in the world, has acquired more than 242,000 acres of farmland across the United States, making him the top private farmland owner in America.
The Land Report, a magazine provided by the Realtors Land Institute, said Bill and Melinda Gates obtained “an estimated 242,000 acres of farmland” overall. That farmland portfolio stretches across 18 states.
Gates owns 69,000 acres in Louisiana, 47,000 in Arkansas, 24,800 acres in Arizona and 20,000 in Nebraska. “It is not entirely clear how Gates’ farmland is being used, or whether any of the land is being set aside for conservation,” Forbes magazine reported.
Gates’ investment company owns an agriculture management non-profit group called Leading Harvest that promotes sustainable agriculture standards that prioritize protections of crops, soil, and water resources.
According to The Land Report, it appears the Gates’ started to purchase farmland relatively recently.
“The Gateses’ largest single block of dirt was acquired in 2017: a group of farmland assets owned by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. Based in Toronto, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board began assembling an agricultural portfolio in 2013” that included 100,000 acres in nine states.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been involved in agriculture initiatives in other countries, including in sub-Saharan African and Asia.
Forbes magazine notes that Gates has a net worth of about $121 billion.
Forbes noted that Gates owns the most farmland but is not the largest individual landowner in the United States. Liberty Media Chair John Malone, owner of Formula One and co-owner of the Atlanta Braves, owns 2.2 million acres of ranches and forests. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns about 420,000 acres of land, mostly in West Texas.