Meet the 7 Largest Landowners in Iowa

Written by Crystal
Updated: October 4, 2023
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Iowa is a state known for its lush landscapes and bountiful resources, making it an ideal place for large-scale farming. That’s why you’ll find big farming operations like Dandyland and Amana Farms in Iowa. But farmers aren’t the only ones staking their claim. The federal government, land trusts and the state also own large portions of land.

So, who owns the most acres? Let’s find out! Keep reading to discover the top 7 landowners in Iowa.

1. Iowa Department of Natural Resources — 425,000 Acres

Aerial drone image of farmland landscape in Iowa USA

Farmland landscape in Iowa, USA.

©Felix Mizioznikov/

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) manages an impressive 425,000 acres of public land across its 1,576 square miles. About 29,000 acres managed by the DNR are leased to farmers. This allows citizens to take advantage of the rich soil and abundant resources while still protecting themselves from overdevelopment or damage from harmful farming practices.

68,000 acres have been protected as state parks, creating 106 square miles of publicly available spaces. Wildlife management areas account for another 585 square miles, which allows preservationists ample room to protect native wildlife. Bobcats, whitetail deer, and mountain lions are just a few special creatures you can find in Iowa.

2. Holding Family — 400,000 Acres

Iowa Landscape in Tama County

Tama County, Iowa.

©Lucas Oglesbee/

The Holding Family is one of the top landowners in Iowa, owning 400,000 acres of land. This immense wealth can be traced back to Earl Holding, who passed away in 2013 but left an impressive legacy.

Earl Holding’s journey into the oil and gas industry began in the 1950s with the management of Little America Motel in Wyoming. The creation of an expansive oil and gas empire with Sinclair Oil followed his first success. He later developed the resorts in Sun Valley and Snowbasin. The two profitable ski resorts are still run by the family today.

3. Land Trusts — 286,031 Acres

Land trusts in Iowa protect an impressive 286,031 acres of land. One of the most prominent organizations is the Sustainable Iowan Land Trust (SILT). In total, SILT has protected 1,134 acres of land in 14 farms.

SILT permanently protects land across Iowa by working with landowners, namely by helping them donate property while retaining full use of it. They also offer landowners permanent land protection agreements. Both options come with significant tax incentives. Sometimes, farmers can receive long-term, inheritable leases that free them from a lifetime of debt.

4. Federal Government — 122,603 Acres

Corn field in Iowa with blue sky and farm buildings on background

The quality of Iowa soil exceeds what most people realize and could be considered more valuable than other areas’ soil.

©Natalia Kuzmina/

The federal government owns 122,603 acres of the state’s total land area. They’ve earned their name as one of Iowa’s top landowners, considering that 0.34 percent of the 35,860,480-acre total is under their care.

One of the most notable landmarks under their jurisdiction is the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, commemorating former President Herbert Hoover’s birthplace. The Birthplace Cottage still stands today and serves as a reminder of his humble beginnings in Iowa.

Another famous spot the federal government maintains is the Maquoketa Caves State Park. As one of the state’s earliest state parks, it is home to 13 caves, including Dancehall Cave, Hernando’s Hideaway, Shinbone Cave, and Wye Cave. The Dancehall Cave is as cool as it sounds. Rigged with lights and walkways, you’ll be able to dance through the cave tour.

5. Amana Farms — 26,000 Acres

The Amana Society, Inc. is dedicated to maintaining the quality and productivity of the Amana fields through innovation and care. Founded in Iowa, the society governs a sprawling 26,000-acre farm with many crops and animals. With an emphasis on modern agricultural techniques and support for their employees, the Amana people have produced an impressive variety of products.

The Amana Farms produces various crops, including food-grade white corn, non-GMO soybeans, and other specialty crops like alfalfa and canola. The society also manages a 2,400 cow/calf herd and a 4,000-head cattle feedlot.

6. Dandyland Farms — 9,000 Acres

Wind turbines on a farm in Iowa on a cloudy day

Wind turbines on a farm in Iowa.

©Justin C. Hilts/

Dandyland Farms take up a 9,000-acre swath of Iowa farmland and is owned by longtime farmers Dan and Wendy. When the couple married in 1981, they combined the first three letters of Daniel’s name with the last three letters of Wendy’s. The result was Dandy, which became the name for Dandyland Farms.

The loving farming couple has been investing in new equipment to make their operations more eco-friendly. These state-of-the-art technologies include GPS-guided tractors and precision planting, which help preserve soil health. They also use a satellite imagery platform to monitor the fields throughout the growing season.

7. Bill Gates — 600 Acres

Bill Gates, who used to be the CEO of Microsoft, recently bought 600 acres of farmland in Iowa. He may be last on our list of the top landowners in Iowa, but he’s one of the most unique. The land purchase has caught the attention of many people across the state. After all, it’s not every day that a prominent figure invests in agricultural land.

It’s possible that Bill Gates may want to use the land to promote sustainable energy. Perhaps he foresees value in investing in carbon energy as an environmentally friendly renewable energy source.

Another reason Bill Gates might have chosen to invest in Iowa’s farmland is the dirt! The quality of Iowa soil exceeds what most people realize and could be considered more valuable than other areas’ soil.

Summary of the 7 Largest Landowners in Iowa

Here is a list of the 7 largest landowners in the state of Iowa:

RankOwnerLand Size
1Iowa Department of Natural Resources425,000 acres
2Holding Family400,000 acres
3Land Trusts286,031 acres
4Federal Government122,603 acres
5Amana Farms26,000 acres
6Dandyland Farms9,000 acres
7Bill Gates600 acres

Final Thoughts on Top Landowners in Iowa

When it comes to the top landowners in Iowa, a lot is going on. On the one hand, the federal government manages over 100,000 acres. They use much of the land to provide public spaces, like historical sites.

On the other hand, you have entrepreneurs like Bill Gates potentially looking to capitalize on renewable energy opportunities. There are also impressive farms like the Amana Society and Dandyland that use modern technology to make their land more productive and efficient. And remember the land trusts, who are doing their part to preserve Iowa’s important and irreplaceable open spaces.

No matter which type of landowner you are looking at, it is clear that Iowa has some amazing people taking care of its land. What else should you know about Iowa? Read the below articles to find out!

Who Are the Largest Landowners in the United States?

In total U.S. land ownership, the Federal Government comes out on top, owning 640 million acres of land nationwide.

©Orhan Cam/

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 © Felix Mizioznikov/

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About the Author

Crystal is a dedicated writer at A-Z Animals, focusing on topics related to mammals, insects, and travel. With over a decade of experience in the world of research and writing, she also fulfills the role of a skilled video and audio engineer. Residing in sunny Florida, alligators are Crystal's favorite animal.

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  1. Dandyland Farms, Available here:
  2. Balletopedia, Available here:
  3. Sarah Stringer, Available here:
  4. Amana Society Farms, Available here: