• Protecting Water and Farmland in Simcoe County

‘Extraordinary’ demand for Barrie-area farmland

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Sep 30th, 2014
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Developers looking to build houses, farmers looking to relocate driving up farmland prices: ReMax

By: Susan Pigg Toronto Star

As development has leapfrogged the Greenbelt area north of the GTA into the fast-growing area around Barrie, many farmers have been playing a lucrative game of musical chairs.

They’ve been selling off valuable spreads for development that their families have farmed, in some cases for generations, and been snapping up cheaper land within an hour’s drive where they start all over again.

That double demand, of sorts, for farmland in the South Simcoe area has been “extraordinary,” according to ReMax’s annual farm report released Tuesday. That high-demand stretch, largely along Highway 400, includes Barrie, Tottenham, Innisfil, Springwater and Bradford.

There developers have paid up to $54,000 an acre for hay fields that can be converted to housing. Just down the road – in areas where land is designated solely for farming – prices have also been escalating, but to a relatively affordable $10,000 to $12,000 per acre, says ReMax.

That’s encouraged some long-time farmers to even split their businesses, says former farmer and now ReMax farm specialist George Atkinson: Dad maintains some of the valuable old parcel and sells off the rest to help the kids buy up new, cheaper farms within easy commuting distance so they can share costly farm equipment.

In Kitchener-Waterloo, where prices have started to level off, farmland is now amongst the priciest in the province — $14,000 to $18,000 per acre. That’s also lead to relocations, with some Mennonite families moving to Quinte and Renfrew counties to the northeast. There farmland is a more affordable $8,000 to $12,000 per acre, notes ReMax.

For the most part, the price of farmland across Canada has largely held steady or increased just slightly over 2013, says the report, after years of substantive price escalation.

Alberta, however, has been plagued with the same inventory problem now driving up prices in the Toronto house market: Bidding wars caused by too much demand for too little supply.

Alberta farmers looking to expand, as well as urbanites looking for the country life, have driven up competition to the point where farm prices have increased 20 per cent in the last year alone, says ReMax.

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