Leland – John Dean Jr. has grown up in the land of cotton. Now he makes his living selling it.
Several generations of the Dean family have been involved in agriculture in Leland since the turn of the century. After graduating from Mississippi State University with a degree in agribusiness, Dean put his training to work through management positions on some of the family farms, he said.
“I actually backed into real estate as a profession,” he said. “In 1978, I took real estate courses just so I could do a better job with title searches because we were buying and selling some farmland at that time. I ended up taking the exam and getting my license.
“Shortly thereafter, I was contacted by the first of several agricultural chemical companies looking for high-quality land upon which to establish agricultural research farms. This was followed by some investors interested in larger farmland tracts generating competitive returns. I soon determined that if I concentrated in investment grade farmland, there was a niche to be had.”
Dean founded LANDMART/Dean Land Realty Company in 1980, a full-service real estate brokerage and management firm specializing in the representation of buyers and sellers of investment grade farmland throughout the South. Licensed in the states of Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, with joint venture partnerships in Georgia and Tennessee, his clients are from all over the U.S., and international investors are from five European countries and Japan.
“There is more agricultural research going on in Washington County, Mississippi, than anywhere else in the world. That`s a phenomenon people are not aware of for a number of reasons,” Dean said. “The Delta has some of the richest land in the world, with a broad range of crops that will grow in our climate. We have an abundant water supply and a very long growing season.
“The `nerve` center of this research activity in Washington County is in the community of Stoneville, the home of numerous entities of the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Experiment Station (MAFES), Delta Research & Extension Center and the USDA-ARS. Housed here is an extensive research library, which is available to the scientists from 16 corporate research centers, now located in the county. Even though a number of these scientists work for competing companies, there is a definite synergy to having this growing agricultural research effort within a close proximity. In fact, the area is now becoming referred to as `the Silicon Valley of agriculture`,” he said.
Dean employs only five associates in the Leland office. Residential sales make up a small but complementary part of the business, he said.
“We keep the staff small and highly professional purposely because in the agri-land business, it takes special training and understanding that many don`t have in the real estate field,” Dean said. “Although previous professions from our sales staff include a unique blend of such complementary specialties as commercial banking, professional farm management and financial consulting, the key ingredient to our expertise is the core curriculum leading to the accredited land consultant designation, as awarded by the Realtors