Rising price of farmland in Peterborough County stumbling block for future farmers
The average price of farmland in Peterborough County has doubled since 2008 and that’s making it difficult for first-time buyers, says a local group which promotes farmland in central Ontario.
Farms at Work in Peterborough says a moderate-sized farm can cost up to $1 million — a cost that’s keeping many future farmers on the sidelines.
Clara Leahy is one of them. She wants to raise sheep and carry on the family farming tradition near Douro. She’s seeking a 100-acre farm which can cost between $800,000 and $1 million.
“I cannot afford or nearly afford to buy farmland in this area,” said Leahy.
“I’d be a sixth generation farmer and that is very important to me; that’s how I grew up. That’s just a part of my identity.”
Farms at Work says farming is an expensive business to enter and one of the major expenses is land. Pat Learmonth, director of Farms At Work, says that’s due in part to people buying farms for retirement but not using them or some farm owners selling at higher prices because of limited demand.
“Peterborough is under increasing pressure in terms of urbanization,” said Learmonth.
“With the 407 going through and the prices of homes here having skyrocketed we know there is pressure for developing houses. So the question will be ‘where is that development going to be and what impact will it have on farmlands?'”
It’s estimated that in the past 40 years, one-third of county farmland or about 92,000 acres went out of production, driving up the prices of existing properties.
That’s left few options for prospective farmers such as Leahy.
“I’ve been chatting with my parents about starting my flock on their land that they own,” she said. “Now my brother as well has started his own farm and is doing that on my parents’ land.”
Learmonth suggests owners of farmland who aren’t using the land to allow someone else to use it, especially for a beginning farmer looking for access to land.
Farms at Work is holding a workshop in Millbrook on Feb 1. to discuss a range of agricultural-related topics.
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