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How farmland became Canada’s hottest real estate market

How farmland became Canada’s hottest real estate market
Jonathan Hudson/iStockphoto

Buy land, advised Mark Twain, because, as the punch line goes, they ain’t making any more of it. Fast forward to 2013 and that advice, as a look at prices for farmland shows, seems as prescient as ever.

As any farmer will readily tell you, the agriculture business has had a tough run. Agriculture was once an economic mainstay. Turn back the clock to 1950 and the sector employed nearly a fifth of Canada’s work force. Today, agriculture accounts for less than 2 per cent of the country’s employed workers, while its share of gross domestic product is also a shadow of what it once was. Farm prices have languished for decades, as Canada’s population has shifted from rural to urban. By the 1990s, North America was losing two acres of productive farmland to development every minute.

How the world has changed for Canada’s farmers in 2013. The hottest sector of the country’s real estate market is, you guessed it, farmland. The price of farmland in Canada has outpaced both residential and commercial real estate, gaining an average of 12 per cent over the last five years. In some hotspots, such as southwestern Ontario, the price-per-acre has been going up by as much as 50 per cent a year. Even pension plans and hedge funds have become players in the pursuit of prime agricultural land, interest that is only sending prices that much higher.

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