Driving across Central Florida, one might notice a vast landscape dotted by citrus plants and other trees native to the state. These two goods are the primary resources utilized by large Florida-based companies. In fact, the largest landowners in the state of Florida mainly deal in timberland management and agriculture. On the other hand, some large landowners in Florida engage in real estate, insurance, and the production of biofuel. Overall, much of Florida’s land is privately owned by companies and families committed to producing the best products and services for their customers. Discover the 11 largest landowners in Florida and determine how many acres of Florida land they own.
Seven Facts About Land in Florida
- Approximately 27.1% of land in Florida is owned by the federal government, leaving 72.9% of Florida’s land to private ownership.
- The Bureau of Land Management oversees the largest portion of federally owned land in Florida at 39.7%.
- The Department of Defense oversees the smallest portion of federally owned land in Florida at 1.4%.
- The state’s total area covers 65,758 square miles, making it the 22nd largest state in the United States.
- Of Florida’s vast 65,758 square miles, 12,133 square miles are dominated by bodies of water.
- In 2011, Florida’s top 10 largest landowners owned around 10% of the entire state.
- The largest landowner in Florida is disputed; some believe that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints owns the most land in Florida, while others claim that another company owns the largest amount of land in the state.
1) The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – 672,000 acres
The Church’s total land owning in Florida has been disputed. It is known that the church purchased around 382,000 acres of land from St. Joe Company nearly a decade ago. At the same time, others believe the total amount to be 678,000 acres, according to the World Population Review. Another estimate approximates that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints owns nearly 2% of the state’s entire landmass, amounting to around 672,000 acres. If this estimate is true, the Church would be the largest private landowner in Florida. Thus, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints takes the number one spot on the list of Florida’s largest landowners.
2) Foley Timber and Land Company – 562,000 acres
Founded in 1994, Foley Timber and Land Company supply various lumber and home improvement products. The company harvests an abundance of timber yearly, often exceeding one million tons. The headquarters of Foley Timber and Land Company are in Perry, Florida. Although ranking number two on the list of Florida’s largest landowners, Foley owns the largest connected parcel of land in the state. The parcel of land is also one of the largest east of the Mississippi River. The company owns 562,000 acres of land in the state of Florida.
3) Plum Creek Timber – 415,000 acres
Plum Creek Timber was a company headquartered in Seattle, Washington, before its merger with Weyerhaeuser in 2016. The company produced lumber products and managed property development and mining. Plum Creek Timber first established itself in the state of Florida in 2001. Plum Creek Timber owned land across 22 counties in Florida, and the company owned 6.8 million acres total across 19 states. As part of Weyerhaeuser, this company owns 415,000 acres in Florida, ranking them number three on the list of Florida’s largest landowners.
4) Rayonier Company – 400,000 acres
Rayonier Company, also known as Rayonier Timber, owns approximately 400,000 acres of land around its headquarters. Rayonier’s headquarters are located in Jacksonville, Florida. The company focuses on the production of performance fibers, which are used in a variety of products, such as pharmaceuticals and diapers. The company owns 200,000 acres between Savannah, Georgia and Daytona Beach, Florida. Rayonier Timber takes the number four spot on the list of Florida’s largest landowners.
5) Lykes Bros. Co. – 340,000 acres
Lykes Bros Co. is an insurance company and agricultural firm based in Florida. The company also works to provide resources for producing biofuels such as ethanol. Lykes Bros Co. owns between 337,000 and 340,000 acres of land in Florida. The company also owns much land in Texas and dabbles in citrus production. The headquarters of the company is located in Tampa, Florida. Lykes Bros Co. ranks number five on the state’s largest landowners list.
6) The Collier Family – 280,000 acres
The Collier family is not only one of the largest private landowners in Florida but also ranks as the eighth largest landowner in the United States as of 2015. The family owns approximately 280,000 acres in the state of Florida and has a net worth of $2.3 billion. The Barron Collier Companies and Collier Enterprises are owned by the Collier family and based in Naples, Florida. Barron Collier Companies provides diverse services, including industries like agriculture, real estate, resource management, and land ownership. The Collier family ranks number six on Florida’s largest landowners list.
7) Mosaic Company – 254,000 acres
Mosaic Company owns 245,000 acres of land in Florida, and its headquarters is stationed in Plymouth, Minnesota. Mosaic is the largest supplier of phosphate in the world and mines all its phosphate in the state of Florida. Nearly two-thirds of the 245,000 acres owned by Mosaic Company in Florida have been mined for phosphate extraction and production. The company has already made efforts to put its reclaimed land to other uses. For instance, Streamsong Golf Resort in Central Florida was established and eventually sold by the Mosaic Company. Mosaic holds the title of the seventh-largest landowner in the state of Florida.
8) Florida Crystals Corporation– 194,500 acres
Florida Crystals owns approximately 194,500 acres of land in Florida, allowing it to rank number eight on the list of Florida’s largest landowners. Started by the Fanjul family, Florida Crystals is a family-owned business that produces crops like sugarcane and rice. Florida Crystals is also committed to conservation and sustainability. Their renewable-energy plants use leftover sugarcane to create biomass, which can be used to power homes and businesses through electricity. The term “organic” is a staple of this company, which is headquartered in West Palm Beach, Florida.
9) Bascom Southern – 194,000 acres
Bascom Southern Timberlands is a branch in Florida managed by Campbell Group, which operates out of Portland, Oregon. In 2021, Campbell Group was bought by prominent asset management company J.P. Morgan. Campbell Group, under J.P. Morgan, continues to manage timberland and natural resources across many states, including Florida. The company claims to manage forests in a sustainable manner that positively impacts surrounding environments. The Bascom Southern branch owns 194,000 acres of land in Florida, making it the ninth-largest landowner in the state.
10) The St. Joe Company – 171,000 acres
The St. Joe Company had been Florida’s largest private landowner until 2009. Plum Creek Timber took the number one spot for a period after acquiring nearly 600,000 acres in the state. However, Plum Creek Timber sold off some of its land and merged with another company, allowing St. Joe Co. to rise to the top once again. After St. Joe sold over 380,000 acres to the Mormon Church, though, they lost their title of Florida’s largest landowner. The company primarily deals in asset management and real estate development. St. Joe Co. headquarters is in Watersound, Florida, which sits just outside Panama City Beach, Florida. With 171,000 acres, St. Joe Co. holds the title of Florida’s tenth-largest landowner.
11) U.S. Sugar Corporation – 154,000 acres
Finally, the U.S. Sugar Corporation owns 154,000 acres of land in Florida, making it the final largest landowner in the state at rank number 11. Approximately 700,000 tons of cane sugar are produced by U.S. Sugar Corp. annually. These 700,000 tons amount to around 10% of all cane sugar produced within the United States. The company also handles citrus and vegetable production, including sweet corn. U.S. Sugar Corp. has been operating for nearly a century, expanding gradually over time.
Summary of the 11 Largest Landowners in Florida
Here’s a recap of the largest landowners in the state of Florida.
|1||The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints||672,000 acres (disputed)|
|2||Foley Timber and Land Company||562,000 acres|
|3||Plum Creek Timber||415,000 acres|
|4||Rayonier Company||400,000 acres|
|5||Lykes Bros. Co.||340,000 acres|
|6||The Collier Family||280,000 acres|
|7||Mosaic Company||254,000 acres|
|8||Florida Crystals Corporation||194,500 acres|
|9||Bascom Southern||194,000 acres|
|10||The St. Joe Company||171,000 acres|
|11||U.S. Sugar Corporation||154,000 acres|
Who Are the Largest Landowners in the United States?
There are two worth mentioning as relating to the largest landowners in the United States. The first is probably pretty obvious-the U.S. Government. Shared between the National Park Service, the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Department of Defense, over 640 million acres of U.S. land are owned by the Federal Government. That’s roughly ⅓ of all the land in the United States, which averages out to a total of 2.3 billion acres.
The largest landowner in the United States other than the Federal Government is the Emmerson family, whose patriarch Red Emmerson founded Sierra Pacific Industries in Anderson, California. This company is focused on lumber production, operating a number of sawmills. The Emmerson family owns approximately 2,330,000 acres of land.
The other top largest landowners in the U.S. are:
- John Malone–2,200,000 acres (land committed to conservation)
- The Reed Family–2,100,000 acres (lumber production and forests)
- Ted Turner–2,000,000 acres (ranching and agricultural research)
- Stan Kroenke–1,627,500 acres (farmland, ranches, renewable energy)
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Alexander Lukatskiy/Shutterstock.com
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