Developers not using up farmland, agents say

by Jamie Henry25 Nov 2014
Agents in rural markets are questioning a StatsCan report suggesting developers are eating into farmable land, arguing those builders have surprisingly little appetite for such isolated areas.

“With development, it’s all about long-term plans for cities and towns, so most developers are not buying farmland,” says Philip Chabot, a broker in London, Ont., adding developers look for regions with better infrastructure, like highways and growing communities. “There’s always land being taken out [of the agricultural stock, but] I think it’s being well-managed by the cities and towns.”
The StatsCan report, released earlier this month, found farmland on agricultural land declined by 969,802 hectares, or almost 2,395 acres, between 2001 and 2011. That means land that was once used to grow crops or raise livestock is no longer used for that purpose, though the report did not elaborate on its use.
Chabot, however, says that doesn’t mean big-city developers are taking over Canada’s farmlands. Instead, farmers are either using the land for recreational purposes or are holding onto the plots they already have.
“A lot of farmers are cash cropping [growing crops for sale or profit] for corn and soy bean… so farmers aren’t buying farm anymore,” John Boyle, a Re/Max agent in Campbellford, Ont., tells REP. “They’re either in the big-time now, or they’re leasing land for recreational enjoyment. It’s not a big commodity anymore. You can’t make a living on 100 acres.”
Boyle says farmland in his region of work is now selling at $4,500 an acre. In higher-demand areas, such as Woodstock or Stratford, those prices can be as high as $20,000 an acre. However, those numbers haven’t increased as quickly as they once did. In places Middlesex and Lambton, per-acre farmland prices have fallen in the last few years, but Chabot says farmland-focused agents aren’t worried.
“The amount of sales taking place is very strong; it’s very brisk and there is still good demand, but the local farmers are not willing to push the prices any higher than they are and they’ve settled down,” he tells REP. “There’s also been a lot of land purchased over the last number of years, and farmers have settled their needs for expansion, so they’re being more selective about the land they’re acquiring.”

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