Fiduciary's bid wins farm asset auction

Salt Lake Tribune/June 12, 2007
By Brooke Adams

Bruce R. Wisan bought the farm - well, half of it, anyway.

Wisan, acting on behalf of the polygamous sect's property trust that he oversees, on Monday offered the winning bid of $2.3 million for assets of Harker & Sons, one of two companies that operate a dairy farm in Beryl.

Wisan, who has managed the United Effort Plan Trust since 2005, forced the auction of Harker & Sons' interest in the farm to satisfy an $8.8 million judgment against former trustees, the FLDS church and its top officials, including Warren S. Jeffs.

The fiduciary persuaded a Utah judge in March that Jeffs and other trustees had harmed the trust by selling off property and ordering removal of buildings and farming equipment. The trust holds virtually all land and buildings in the twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., home base of the FLDS church.

The farm was established in the 1950s by Parley J. Harker, who deeded it to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in 1997. Family members had operated it for the church since under two entities, Harker & Sons and Harker Farm Inc.

Wisan faced one other bidder - Robert Holt, a landowner who operates a separate farm in Beryl - for Harker & Sons' assets: about 480 acres, a dairy herd, tractors and other farming equipment and some pivots. How many cows? Twenty-four bulls, 217 steers, 722 heifers and 911 milk cows.

Harker & Sons' half of the farm is valued at somewhere between $3.3 million and $4 million, Wisan said.

Harker Farm Inc. holds the rest of the property, valued at between $4 million and $5.5 million: another 337 acres, water rights, 18 homes, corrals, barns and milking equipment.

Wisan also is pursing acquisition of the those assets.

"We have the cows but they've got the barn," Wisan said. "No one can operate the farm unless there is some cooperation right now."

Joseph L. Harker, an FLDS member and Parley's grandson, had been running the farm; he has agreed to continue managing the farm until new operators are in place, Wisan said.

Wisan plans to put Hyrum and Jonathan Harker, also grandsons of Parley, in charge of the farm. They left the polygamous sect in the 1980s with their father and now operate a farm in Delta.

Wisan said Hyrum and Jonathan Harker are interested in buying the property if he is able to acquire assets of Harker Farm.

He said the current operators have reduced farm loans on the property over the past two months or so to just $600,000.

"The hay has been harvested and it's in the barn," Wisan added.

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