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You’re listening to how to make your land well for you.
About Greg Phillips
I’m a corporate transactional lawyer living in Houston, Texas.
However, my roots growing up, my mother and father from East Texas, a small town called Grapeland, Texas, and I spent most of my youth in Grapeland.
And now, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve reconnected with my rural roots. And my passion is working with rural America, rural landowners on how to make their land work for them to generate income. To generate generational wealth from generation after generation.
About Brandon Leonard
My name is Brandon Leonard.
Some would say I’m a city slicker from Houston, Texas.
I’m a criminal defense lawyer by day and a city dweller trying to reconnect with my East Texas roots by night.
Our mission for this podcast is really to have a conversation and talk about the benefits of rural land ownership.
We hope that these conversations will encourage, empower, and educate landowners, especially in rural America, so that they use their land as a wealth-building tool for themselves, as well as future generations.
This is our first attempt at a podcast, but we’re going to give it a shot really because it’s a topic that both Greg and I are passionate about and we think that these are conversations that will hopefully be beneficial to all of you.
As a child, my mom would talk to me about her life experiences.
Growing up in East Texas her grandfather was a sharecropper who also owned cows and other farm animals that were used either directly for the benefit of his family or indirectly by selling products and bought products that came from his efforts on the land. So my perception of what it means to live off rural land was shaped by my experiences with what I saw growing up as a child visiting greatly.
But here recently, I’ve been simply blown away to learn more about the amazing economic opportunities for owners of rural land in America. And on today’s show, we’ll talk about a few of those economic opportunities for owners of rural land in America.
According to a 2011 report released by the Association of Fish and Wildlife agencies, hunters paid landowners, an estimated $1.3 Billion to use their land primarily for hunting.
Around the same time in East Texas alone, the value of timber harvested in that region exceeded over $200 million. So on today’s show, we’re going to discuss a few of the economic opportunities and hopefully, these conversations will shed some light on the many ways that ownership of rural land can be valuable.
(Brandon) Greg I’m excited today.
(Greg) Why are you so fired up, Brandon? Why are you so excited?
(Brandon) Because we get to talk about money today, man. That’s one of my favorites topics.
(Brandon) Okay, now that’s good. It might get a lot of people excited. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people have a very big misconception that there are no economic opportunities in rural America that you can’t really make money in rural America today, but hopefully we can highlight some opportunities so that we can inform and educate folks and let them know that if you own land in rural America — especially in Texas, there are some opportunities to create some wealth, to make that land and asset.
Now, before we talk about those opportunities, everyone knows that this show is brought to you by Deer Texas Leases. And I know, Hunting is something that’s very big and very important to you and has been for a good portion of your life.
(Brandon Leonard) Why don’t you tell our listeners how you got into hunting and tell us a little bit about your connection to rural America.
(Greg Phillips) Thanks for letting me spend some time talking about it. I grew up, all of my youth, pretty much spending all the extra time in my youth in East Texas — and viewers, Brandon and I are cousins. We’re both from East Texas, a place called Grapeland, Texas in Houston County, Texas. Going to school in Houston during the week, but on the weekends and holidays, I would spend in Grapeland.
My family were hunters. My grandfather would take me out late at night, coon hunting when I was five or six years old. We would meet my cousins with flashlights running into one another when hunting at night. And then my father, he was an avid hunter and his brothers were hunters. As a young boy, I probably hunted anything you could hunt in East Texas.
I tell people like — armadillos, possums, squirrels, rabbits, back then we could hunt birds. So I was a hunter and was raised hunting. The one thing that stuck with me was deer hunting. All those other types of hunting adventures I really don’t do anymore.
But deer hunting is something that stuck with me.
(Brandon Leonard) What do you think it was about deer hunting that, just had such a profound effect on you?
(Greg Phillips) That’s a real good question because most people think, oh, you just like going out and shooting at animals but it’s really more than that —it’s really more than the sport of hunting.
It’s when I go out there now, especially where I am in my life with sometimes in the rat race here in the big city of Houston, I can get away from Houston. I can sit out there and you’re sitting in a deer stand and you’re, you’re watching nature and wildlife. You see the blue birds flying by, you see the red birds, you’ll see, maybe a fox walked by and every now and then a squirrel surprise me. And I’ll surprise him or her because you try to get the full spectrum of nature. You see it all and you just breathe it in, the fresh air, and listen to God speak to you through the wind.
The other thing is just the comeraderyship with the other hunters out there of going out in nature and just sitting out there and talking and getting away from the rat race. It’s just wonderful and peaceful out there.
And think about this, I also look at just the spectrum of — look I don’t have to go to the store to get something for my family to eat. There’s something about it that I’ve told my children before, that meat you’re eating didn’t come from the store it came right from the woods to our table.
And there’s something special about that.
So there’s a lot to hunting more than just the sport of going out.
I tell people, spend time with nature and it’s unbelievable how peaceful it is.
(Brandon Leonard) And I know that hunting is a big sport in the United States, especially here in Texas. Let me ask you a question, how much do serious hunters spend annually on hunting?
There’s a Texas Parks and Wildlife study that said hunters in Texas spend anywhere from $1,800 to about $2,500 a year on hunting.
During the hunting season, there’s a substantial number of Americans that value hunting for cultural, social, and conservation reasons.
Hunting is an American tradition. It’s shared by millions of Americans, regardless of their social and economic backgrounds American society as a strong, see hunting as a wholesome hunting heritage. And if you look at the industry, just the business of hunting — the hunting industry in America generates more than $70 Billion in economic output.
There are over 1 million jobs in the United States generated from the hunting industry. It’s a big busy industry and it generates over $25 billion in retail sales and over $17 billion in salaries and wages. That’s data provided by the 2001 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Association.
So it’s a big business. It generates a lot of wealth and a lot of revenue.
(Brandon Leonard) And that’s something like I said before, I didn’t grow up hunting and I didn’t necessarily get exposed to those types of figures and those types of numbers until later on in life.
Tell me something, Greg, how do those figures that we discuss, how do the things that hunters buy and that they spend money on, how do those things affect the local rural economy?
We honed in with Deer Texas Leases and you can go visit our site at deertexasleases.com. We honed in on this idea of hunting leases. We looked at underutilized rural land that people have and all these hunters out there that may not be able to afford to go buy land.
There’s a whole demand of hunters wanting to be able to go hunt and trying to find land to hunt on, and what we found is that there’s not a big availability of hunters to hunt on public land is declining.
And then we saw that absentee landowners control over one-half of the privately held land in the U S. And so it makes it very difficult for hunters, to find landowners, to seek permission to hunt on that private land. But then we did our research and found that over $624 Million is spent annually on hunting leases. So these are hunters going to find leases to hunt on, and what’s happening in these small, rural, maybe limited-resources landowners don’t tap into this market. They don’t know how to tap into those waters.
And each Hunter spends an average of about $2,000 on a hunting lease per year.
So there are multiple hunters on a lease.
So what does that mean?
Landowners can make an average of $4,000 a season on hunting leases to allow a hunter to lease on their private land.
Hunters spend about 5.3 billion on hunting-related travel expenses.
You think about, hotels and gas, and they spend about $6.4 billion on hunting equipment. That’s everything from buying the mules, the ATVs, and the gas and their guns and their bullets.
You think about that — and then in Texas, there are probably over 300,000 non-resident people coming into Texas to hunt from other states. But then you go think about catalog and internet sales of hunting-related gear it’s a huge business. It’s booming!
So that’s why we looked at Deer Texas Leases to look at the hunting industry to match up hunters with landowners with limited-resources landowners where they could basically, we could have an ecosystem where they can enter into leases for hunting.
(Brandon Leonard) Greg, I know in addition, to hunting, you also conduct some business in East Texas. Tell me a little bit about some of those business interests, to the extent that you can.
I’ll tell you what I mean.
Here’s what opened my eyes.
My family owns about 220 acres in East Texas in the Grapeland, Texas area.
I’ve been told it’s been in our family for over a 100 years. And so I really got involved recently after my father passed away and a few uncles passed away — and this will answer your question — just talking about our land, which traditionally we ran cows on that land.
We had a ranch with cattle ranchers and we ran cows for as long as I’ve been living. And when my father passed away in August, ….
I have one uncle that’s still living in and we’re trying to manage these cows. And like I tell people I’m a lawyer in Houston, so on a Tuesday at 2:00 AM there’s been a big storm in East Texas, and a tree falls on the fence and now my cows are out! I get a call to come get your cows. Well, I can’t do that, I’m in Houston.
I say we have to figure something else out for this land.
So through the Landowners Association of Texas, they educated me about other uses of land.
(Brandon Leonard) Just briefly, tell us what the Landowners Association of Texas is about.
(Greg Phillips) Landowners Association of Texas is a non-profit organization that’s been around for over 40 years, and the whole focus and the mission of the Landowners Association of Texas are to ensure that limited-resources and small landowners keep their land — that they don’t lose their land.
That’s their mission.
So they look for ways to educate and help rural landowners keep their land.
And so I got involved with that organization, and by the way, we’re going to have Barbara Lange who is the Executive Director of Landowners Association of Texas at the next show. We’ll have an interview with her, so everyone will be able to learn all about it — but they educated me about alternative uses of rural land.
So one thing they said to me — in East, Texas, Greg you have a lot of timber.
Have you looked at the timber industry?
I started doing research and found that the federal government wants to maintain forests. We’re losing forests in this country. So what they do is they incentivize landowners to plant a certain type of lolly pine trees.
And I researched it and our family got involved and we started a tree farm on our family land and got rid of the cows.
(Brandon Leonard) So you mean to tell me that the federal government will in some circumstances, pay landowners to grow trees?
(Greg Phillips) That’s correct. They’ll reimburse you. You may have to expend a little money up front, but they’ll reimburse through those expenses.
Yes, they will pay you to plant trees because they want forests. That’s one example. We’ve done that with 120 acres on our property.
And then recently, Brandon, if you remember, we had a call, you and I, with a biologist that works for the Texas Parks and Wildlife and he explained to us that the government also has a program to reimburse landowners to plant a certain type of grass.
He said in East Texas that years ago that bahiagrass has taken over. What’s happened? It’s not a native species of grass and that’s why you don’t see a lot of quail and dove, so that’s kinda gone. They dwindled down the population. So what the government is doing is reimbursing landowners to plant big bluestem and silver bluestem grass, which is a native species grass for East Texas, instead of Bahia.
And then also there are even ventures to set up a venture on your property to use your property if it’s underutilized to dispose of animal carcasses. You have roadkill, animals that get killed on the road, and then even ranchers have dying cattle and somehow they need to dispose of those animals.
You can even get reimbursed to set up a facility on your property to dispose of animal carcasses.
There are all kinds of opportunities to use your land for income producing opportunities.
(Brandon Leonard) Greg at the beginning of the show, we talked about the many millions of dollars that flow annually into the United States and the rural economies and they go to the owners of rural land.
And I think when most people think about rural land and agriculture and working the land — and how I alluded to at the beginning of the show based on my experience, the only way that I know of how to benefit from the land is actually through agriculture and working on the land.
What else is out there (e.g. income-producing ideas)?
(Greg Phillips) Most people do think of crops, and I got to go plant some peas or they think about, of course, cows and livestock and things related to agriculture. I got to go be a farmer and go put on some overalls and get on a tractor and be a farmer.
There are all kinds of things.
High-tech is being used.
There are industries coming up now where they’re are drone companies that will lease out drones. They’ll do drone filming for you that’s all done out in rural America. So there are companies that will do droning and then they’ll do videos to help you with your property.
And as I mentioned, there are other programs as far as tree farms for what people are doing.
But there’s also a lot of activity going on in rural America for renewable energy. There’s a big push now to find land to be used to set up solar farms. You can actually set up solar farms to tie into the grid system to provide electricity folks.
There are a number of ways to put your rural land to work, to make money for you.
You just have to stick with us because we’re going to educate you. And we’re going to keep feeding you information to turn that land into an asset for generations to come.
(Brandon Leonard) Here’s what I want to know Greg. If I’m a lawyer living in Houston, or if I’m a teacher or an artist or construction worker, and I own land in rural America, are there passive income opportunities?
In other words, if I live 100 miles or 200 miles away and I don’t have time to tend to crops or attend to livestock or, what other kinds of passive income opportunities are available for me if I own land in rural America?
I’ll tell you what and what I’m going to put a plug in for Deer Texas Leases.
If you have land right now that you aren’t using, one big thing is hunting leases.
Hunting leases provide a lot of benefits to the landowner.
A hunting lease can help families create and generate additional income.
A source from their under-utilized land so that land can generate family wealth and that doesn’t take a lot of work. You put a lease in place. You make sure there are parameters and you put the right terms in the lease, and you make sure you do background checks on the hunters. Make sure they’re good folks.
That’s a passive income stream and it makes the land an asset instead of a burden.
And by the way at Deer Texas Leases, either the landowner can manage the lease or we will do all of the hard work for you at Deer Texas Leases.
So you can market your land as a hunting lease.
Benefits of Using Land for A Hunting Lease
Hunting leases have some secondary, positive things as well.
They eliminate trespassers and poachers on underutilized land.
Think about the land that, some of the community hasn’t seen the landowner for a while. They know no one’s coming around. They may sneak on the property, trespass, and poach, and actually trespass on the land.
If you get somebody taking care of your land like a person that has it for a hunting lease, it’ll keep the poachers and the trespassers away.
Also, hunting on an underutilized property could be helpful in reducing property damage.
Actually, it could be a good way to manage the overpopulation of wildlife. It could be a conservation measure. That’s another reason that hunting leases are good for the land if you have good wildlife management.
One other thing I want to talk about too is landowners can get together and create co-ops.
And before we jump into that, Greg, where can our listeners go to find more information on Deer Texas Leases?
Dear Texas Leases — go to www.deartexasleases.com. It’s a wonderful website.
We’ve got a lot of information on the website. We’ve got some newsletters, helpful hints about hunting, land management. I think you’ll find that website very entertaining if you go out and check it out.
Brandon, there’s a couple of other ways that people could actually utilize their land.
I mentioned the co-ops.
A lot of people are confused when it comes to co-ops, but it’s actually a company that’s created by people in a community. Typically it’s a rural community and it’s owned by the people in the community. It’s owned by those same people.
The profits are paid out to the owners who run it, they choose the board and the management of the co-op.
If you go back and look at the history of co-ops for nearly a 100 years, rural communities they’ve relied on cooperatives to bring utilities to their homes, things like phone and water, because big companies, as I’ve said, there’s not enough money in it, to go take these resources to these small rural areas.
So what did rural America have to do? They had to go create their own. So in the early 20th century, rural cooperatives started growing because they had to create their own for private electricity and phones.
Private investors just didn’t see enough money in it. So rural America had to go create their own. There’s approximately 260 telephone co-ops and 900 electrical co-ops in America.
And today, there’s a huge issue with internet broadband. There’s this digital divide in rural America. Right now we’re under COVID-19 and kids have to do distance learning and also telemedicine, people can’t make it to the hospital.
Guess what? People in rural America, they don’t have broadband or fast broadband. so there is a problem with children even learning over the internet.
So people were creating co-ops to bring digital broadband to their communities because big companies aren’t coming in.
What’s the big challenge for bringing broadband internet to these rural communities? And that’s why it’s such a problem, right?
(Greg Phillips) That’s a great question.
There’s a lot of infrastructures that have to go into bringing broadband. For example, you have to lay fiber in the ground. You have to lay the wires, the fiber that would be able to bring the broadband to each home. The problem in rural America, people live 20 miles apart, eight miles apart, 10 miles apart, and there’s not enough density, so they say it may cost potentially $100,000 dollars per mile to lay fiber.
So if you only have 20 homes in a 300-mile area, then the companies are saying it’s not worth it. I don’t have enough customers to go spend that much money on infrastructure to only get paid 30, 40, 50 bucks a month for that broadband.
So why am I going to go spend $100,000, $200,000 or more, or millions of dollars for 25 customers in a 300-mile radius area? So they say it doesn’t make sense. So they don’t, they just say we’re not going to service that area.
So what happens to those communities? They don’t have fast internet broadband. They have to look for other ways. They have to go to a satellite, which is very expensive for the average family. I have some people where we’re from Brandon and Grapeland where they don’t have the internet at all. Do you know what they do? They use their hotspot on their mobile phone. So think about a child doing homework, trying to use a hotspot on a phone.
It’s crazy. So there are communities saying we’re going to take matters into our own hands and we’re going to create co-ops to serve ourselves. So people are doing a lot of wonderful things.
So certainly some awesome opportunities. And I can’t wait to hear more about these opportunities as the show goes on.
Story From The Vault
But now it’s time for stories from the vault of the strange, but true.
So while patrolling Lake Conroe, Montgomery County Game Wardens checked a fisherman on a kayak, as he pulled out his wallet to show his fishing license, a small baggie containing a crystal substance was seen falling from his pocket. The kayak or the kayaker attempted to flood his kayak to destroy the evidence.
Ultimately his system tested positive for methamphetamine. He was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance.
(Greg Phillips) Wow. Brandon, that’s strange,
(Brandon Leonard) Strange, but unfortunately true.
We certainly hope that you’ve enjoyed the show today and we hope that you will continue on this journey with us.
We are going to bring a lot of information to the limited-resources landowners on how to make your land work for you. Turn your land that’s underutilized into an asset to generate income for generations to come.
See you guys next time.