Salt Lake City company buys Easterday companies’ land

For the Basin Business Journal | August 2, 2021 1:00 AM

KENNEWICK — A federal bankruptcy court judge approved a $209 million bid from Salt Lake City-based Farmland Reserve to purchase roughly 18,000 acres from bankrupt Easterday Farms and Easterday Ranches.

At a roughly hour-long hearing on July 14, Judge Whitman Holt approved the bid from Farmland Reserve, an agricultural investment company affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“I’m happy to approve this sale,” Holt said toward the end of the meeting, asking attorneys to make several minor changes to the draft sale order, mostly dealing with grammar and wording.

Farmland Reserve subsidiary AgReserves, through its Kennewick-based operating unit AgriNorthwest, will actually acquire and manage the land, according to an AgReserves news release. Many of the 18,000 acres — 12,000 of which are irrigated — are adjacent to AgriNorthwest properties, and will be added to company’s current holdings of roughly 100,000 acres in Benton and Walla Walla counties.

“Our successful bid reflects our long-term commitment to Columbia Basin agriculture,” said Farmland Reserve CEO Doug Rose. “We will be growing crops on those fertile fields for decades to come.”

“We have been neighbors to the Easterday property for more than 50 years,” said AgriNorthwest Vice President Pat Tolman. “The close similarity of soils and crops grown represents a unique opportunity for these lands to be combined almost seamlessly with AgriNorthwest.”

In late May, lawyers representing the Easterday companies announced that Farmland Reserve intended to place a “stalking horse bid” — a minimum bid on the entire estate of the two Easterday companies — of $188 million for the land and water rights in order to ensure their sale.

At the June 15 auction, the second highest bid of $208 million was from 100C LLC, a Delaware-based company founded in 2018 that is alleged to have ties to Microsoft founder and billionaire Bill Gates.

Both Easterday Farms and Easterday Ranches filed for bankruptcy in early February after it was revealed Cody Easterday, son of founder Gale, who died in an auto accident in early December, 2020, had defrauded Tyson Fresh Meats and one other small meat processor of over $244 million from 2016 to 2020 after losing over $200 million speculating on cattle and corn futures beginning in 2011.

To cover those losses, Easterday billed Tyson Fresh Meats for the care and feeding of over 260,000 head of cattle that did not exist.

As a result of the scheme, Cody Easterday pleaded guilty to defrauding both Tyson Fresh Meats and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission — the federal agency that oversees U.S. commodities markets — in a Spokane federal court in late March.

Easterday, who faces up to 20 years in federal prison, was originally scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 4. However, Easterday’s criminal attorney, Carl Orsekovich, in a court filing asked United States District Court Chief Judge Stanley Bastian to delay the sentencing, citing his own recent knee replacement surgery and the need to complete the bankruptcy proceedings in order to find out how much money Easterday will have to apply to the $244 million in restitution he agreed to pay as part of his plea agreement.

Bastian agreed to postpone Easterday’s sentencing hearing to Oct. 5.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached at