If there’s one thing expanding farming in Northern Ontario will require, it’s money. Financial backing. Bankrolling. Investment. Whatever name you give it, securing land is only a part of the cost of starting farming — new land must be cleared, cleaned up, and tiled if it’s to be improved to at least a Class 3. Yes, there is some cost-share funding for the work, but clearing land takes years and that means having deep pockets.
It’s a very different problem from farmers faced with as high as $20,000/acre land holding them back from expanding in Ontario’s southwest, but the result is rather similar — farmers looking to expand may not be able to without an equity partner.
Joelle Faulkner, president and co-founder of Area One Farms, a company that has built a business around being capital partners, not landlords, for farmers looking to buy land when it comes available, not necessarily when they can afford it full-stop.
Built on renewable, 10-year agreements farmers working with Area One Farms become an operating and capital partner, where they earn an income and share in the appreciation of the land, so that when the agreement is up, or more land comes up for sale, they can buy more.
When it comes to the north, Faulkner says her company has figured out the dollars involved and the process required to turn wild land into producing a profitable crop in four years. But that doesn’t mean the expansion is easy — the scope and scale of farming in the north is most similar to farming in Western Canada, where thinking in thousands of acres is the norm (as is possibly being two hours from inputs and service).
What’s more, farmers are most used to expanding close to home — starting from scratch, literally, isn’t necessarily a comfortable proposition for many. That said, Faulkner has already seen keen operators make the move, and is confident in the potential of the north. Listen below for more.