Business

Follow-Up File: Windfall Farms looks for capital

Name: Greg Boyd

Job: Project manager

Business: Windfall Farms What he said then:

In June 2010, Limoneira Co. in Santa Paula announced it had abandoned a plan to bring a Churchill Downs-style racetrack to Creston’s Windfall Farms.

The 724-acre horse ranch — once owned by “Jeopardy” game show host Alex Trebek — would instead be converted into 75 residential estates, with a winery, vineyards and clubhouse.

“We have to do something that is more sustainable,” said Greg Boyd, Windfall’s project manager. “It’s a beautiful setting, and we want to utilize the underlying real estate with a high-end project.”

The only catch: The company must wait until farmland preservation restrictions associated with the Williamson Act expire at the start of 2013.

One of the largest avocado and citrus growers in the country, Limoneira (Nasdaq: LMNR) went public last year with a value of $163 million.

What he says now:

It’s a challenging time to win investors, Boyd said. But with a group of investment bankers from the Los Angeles area, the manager is optimistic the project will continue as planned.

“We need to raise about $10 million,” he said. “We’re about one-third of the way there. This type of property is not as affected by the local economy (or) job market. They’re coming from anywhere in the world for the environment and lifestyle.”

Its new website, www.windfallfarms.net, advertises “sustainable agricultural lifestyles.”

With a $10 million mortgage and another $10 million in capital from Limoneira, Boyd hopes to complete improvements to the owner’s residence, including its pools and tennis courts, within three months.

“This facility will be for the use of investors and lot buyers,” he said. “Ultimately, it will be like the clubhouse for the owners in the project.”

That residence — once offices for the horse ranch — was remodeled under Trebek, adding four high-end suites. A commercial kitchen was added later.

Project investors can choose between a discount on a property, a share of the project’s profits, or — “an insurance policy if you will,” Boyd said — they can opt for Limoneira common stock.

“People are still very hesitant with money,” he added. “But we’re encouraged that there is capital out there. We’re starting to get some pretty good interest.”

Aimed at affluent urbanites shopping for second or third homes or retirement nests, Windfall Farms has developed three “lifestyle” models for its 10-acre estates: equestrian, vineyard or cattle ranching.

Houses around the existing stables would include use of those facilities to keep and maintain owners’ horses, Boyd said.

Those with dreams of living on a vineyard can — with a farmer tending the vines and paying rent, he added. The cattle model is similar, with a rancher using some of the land for grazing.

“It doesn’t make sense economically as a horse operation,” Boyd said. “This is a way to preserve what’s here and continue to maintain it and keep it from deteriorating.”

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