Land Report 100er: Stefan Soloviev
This New York City-based entrepreneur first developed an interest in agriculture through commodity trading of grains.
“That’s how I got away from sitting at a desk to being out in the West,” he says. With landholdings currently totaling
141,700 acres, Soloviev ranked No. 77 on the 2013 Land Report 100. He points out that he visits a different one of his properties every few weeks.
One reason is that he enjoys implementing innovative agricultural practices such as working with drought-tolerant seeds. His company, Crossroads Agriculture, which he founded in 1999 in Topeka, was originally set up to produce, purchase, and store cash wheat in the Wichita area. He subsequently developed a large-scale cow/calf operation in New Mexico as a complement. Here, he explains the methodical process:
“The grassland we have is three pretty large tracts between Portales and Roswell. Calves born in February stay with their mothers through the summer, and they’ll feed off the wheat throughout the winter. We have the option come March 1 to either pull them off the wheat and let the wheat come to harvest, or we’ll section off a part of our growing wheat for cattle and then sell in June, when they get heavier (upwards of 800 pounds).” The company’s SS brand is already widely recognized throughout the Southwest.
Soloviev also grows wheat and cotton in Kansas and Colorado. “I call it Kansas-Colorado because it’s actually one area that’s all farmland,” he says. “The New Mexico operation took up a lot of time and focus with cattle and wheat, and we’ve expanded into grassland. So we’ve leased out a lot of the Kansas/Colorado land or converted it to crop share.”
His latest innovation is the Payne Mountain Wind Farm Project northwest of Austin. Soloviev has had wind-speed measurement towers in place since 2007 and has acquired about a dozen land leases for the endeavor. Payne Mountain is named for Barzilla Payne, a Civil War-era settler, who was scalped by Indians.
Dale Duncan, Payne’s great-grandson, still lives in the family’s historic homestead. Duncan is also the largest landowner now under lease to Soloviev’s wind project company. Though there’s another wind farm nearby, Soloviev says his operation is better positioned, thanks to its location on the most prominent part of the ridgeline. Future plans include using the most technologically advanced turbines, the General Electric 2.5 megawatt model. Soloviev is also considering working with a strategic partner on the project.
“The idea came from another wind farm I saw out in my territory about eight or nine years ago,” he says. “Texas was an obvious choice. It’s so pro wind energy compared to other states, due to the governorship of [former President] George W. Bush. It’s probably the most progressive state in regard to wind power. The transmission lines that go around our leased ground go right into Austin, and that’s what we’d do: deliver the energy straight into Austin. There’s a lot of potential. Everyone’s looking for wind farms. The thing that makes us unique is having these transmission lines so close to where the ranches were. A brand-new transmission line stretches from West Texas to Austin through this area. It seemed to be a natural fit.”
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