Vancouver Island Farms & Acreage // 250-746-6621 // blairherbert@royallepage.ca

This website has been created to make the search for Agricultural property in the Vancouver Island Real Estate area easier. We have added information for out of Province and out of Canada buyers to answer questions they may have. Committed to going the extra mile and ensuring that all of your needs are successfully met in a professional and honest manner. Check out the FAQ section for info that is unique to the BC farm buying experience. Contact me with questions and I will post the question and answer.

We made it through the wettest part of the year hopefully. The roof is on and the plumbers and heating guys are all but done and the electrician is roughing in. The well equipment goes in tomorrow so the next step is insulating and gyprocing. The only problem is that there is so much humidity that we cant dry the house out. Last weekend, we had quite a bit of rain and the air was holding lots of moisture. So much moisture in fact it was condensing on the cool concrete. The concrete walls and floor are actually sweating like the windows from too high a level of humidity. Hopefully we get a dry week or so to get it down a little. We didn't have this issue in the Prairies. You froze your butt , but humidity this time of year was not an issue.

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Roof has been shingled windows are in and we can proceed with the rest of the finishing. One thing we realized when the fall rains hit was that our "goat trail" was not sufficient to be able to drive on in wet weather. This October we got 188mm of rain which was exessive even for us. As an example in october 2013 we had 25mm. This made shingling a little difficult but we got got it done. As for the road, we had about 400 feet of muck to get from the paved road to the house. Its nice and straight through pasture land and all summer, which was very dry this year, we had no problem getting to the house with heavy trucks etc. Once the rains hit it was a different story. I was tempted to throw down some gravel to get us through but decided we should do it right the first time. I got the excavator in and we scraped out the topsoil from where the road would be. In some spots we had to dig down 18 inches to find a clay layer. We then trucked in a road base consisting of rocks twice the size of your head and then put a top coat of 3 inch road base over that, We still have the topsoil piles next to the road but we will certainly find places to use that up this spring. Nice road. No slipping and spinning out anymore. The roof is done the road is in. Bring on the rains.

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Its been awhile since I posted but lots of progress has been made. The roof trusses went up this morning and the septic is going in as I write. The well went in last week at 422 ft. through 410 of rock. We are hoping for lock up within a couple of weeks. My son is coming over this weekend to help shingle the roof. 

 

The Real Estate market has been very active this summer and we have had our best summer for activity since 2009. The econonmy on the Island seems to be moving along nicely and our Prairie buyers have returned to the residential market. Farm properties are very popular but not as much selection as last year. I was able to list a wonderful 80 acre parcel with 4 homes on it. 80 acres in one parcel is unheard of in the valley. Agricultural property with 4 homes is rare as hens teeth.  $1.4 million. 

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Diiferent construction practices throughout the country. Here, we are putting in a walkout  basement and the framer wants the floor in before he starts to frame. The plumber got the infloor heat pipe in this morning. I had finished putting in the styrofoam on the weekend and we pour tomorrow. We have been praying for no rain because I didn't want a bunch of water trapped in the basement above the poly and looks like we are going to be in good shape. We ran 1/2 line (PEX)  through the basement floor area and roughed it in to the mechanical room. Now I have the option of doing something with it after we move in. I want some combination of solar heat to preheat for the water heater and running the infloor heat off the water heater. More research required but now I have the option.

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We had the walls up by the end of July and then I went on holidays for just over a week. Since getting back  I have installed the perimeter drains and rain drains. Yesterday I had a slinger truck come in and place the 3/4 rock over the perimeter drains as well as it took 72 yds of sand to fill in the basement cavity. There were places that were 2 feet thick. It all had to compacted and levelled so I was on the business end of the compactor from 10 am till 7 pm trying to get it reasonably level and well compacted. The slinger truck arrived at 8:15 am with the load of rock and brought another 6 loads of sand. It was all placed and he was heading to another job by 1:30. This is so much easier than hauling with wheel barrow. It would have taken me days. Now the plumber will rough in the basement and I likely need one more load of sand. Once I get the water line and the power line in I can backfill later this week. The inspector from the municipality was here yesterday and gave us the go ahead. We are going to pour the floor once the plumber is done and before the framer starts. Still have to decide whether we are putting in infloor heat before we pour. I have committed to putting 1.5 inch styrofoam under the floor and I will likely rough in the infloor heat. Nothing seems to go as quickly as i think but we are making progress.

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Sometimes you think that this day may never arrive but here it is. My framer started this morning and hopes to pour the footings by tomorrow and the walls by the end of next week. We are underway.

 

Lots of decisions to be made with hiring plumbers electricians etc. Some of the quotes are quite good and others fall into the " I'm not sure what they were thinking" category. So it good to check around. One of the decisions we ponder at this point is the heating system. We have a south facing property with lots of south facing windows so from a passive solar perspctive we are in good shape. The discussion is about whether we go with a coventional furnace and heat pump combination or a radiant infloor heat running off the water heater provided in part by the sun and gas or electric as a back up. The geothermal option was considered too expensive and since we now live in the warmest climate Canada has to offer, we are wieghing our options. For those that are not familiar with heat pumps, they work very efficiently in our area. A simple explaination of a heat pump, is an airconditioning unit that reverses in the winter to provide heat. The "a" frame is buried in the top of the furnace and the heat or cool air is distributed through the duct system as a normal furnace. Usually we use an electric furnace with an element available for heat when the heat pump does not heat enough. The effeciency lessens the colder it gets and once it get to minus 10 outside you see the element kick in. Fortunatly we seldom see minus 10. The infloor radiant sytem is imbedded in the concrete floor for the lower level and hot water or cold water for that matter runs through it to either heat or cool the slab which radiates through the house. It can run off the hot water heater which would be either electric or gas and the water would be circulated with a small pump. You can thermostat the different zones. With our climate we could also pre heat the water with solar to cut down on the electric or gas requirement. Cost of course is always a factor so we are investigating. Its funny what you learn when you start a project like this. 

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In anticipation of receiving our permit we had a inaugral beer, on what would be the deck, with our present nieghbors/friends Todd and Loralee. We took the dogs, four of them, a,few beer and a patio umbrella and sat in area that would at some point be the house and enjoyed the afternoon and the view. I'm sure the people driving by thought we were an odd site but we had a great time.

 

Our permit finally arrived last friday at a cost of approx $3700. Ouch, i was expecting about $2000 - $2500. We dug the hole yesterday and today and hope to be framing in the footings the first part of next week. Our plan is to be at lock up stage by the end of August, so it will be interesting to see how close we get. Normally here the summers are dry, so the weather shouldn't hold us up. An interesting fact about the Cowichan Valley, in the five months from May to the end of September we get less than half the rain they do in Regina, Sask. Our average rainfall is a total of 143mm where as Regina has 300mm. Bonnyville Alberta has 322mm. I'll just let that sit awhile.

 

Should be an interesting summer.

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We have made some progress since our last post but not nearly as much as we hoped. First of all the CVRD put a bit of a wrinkle in with new requirments for a development permit on agricultural property. This came to light after our building permit request had been submitted. It turns out the rules changed a little last fall and now the CVRD wants to be sure that we are situating the buildings to minimize the use of productive farmland. This required an application and a $50 fee as well as a site visit from a planner. The CVRD seems satisfied that we are building on the lighter land on the property to save the impact on the best land. Hopefully we are approved and can get started the first week of July.

 

Good news though on the hay front. We were able to get a nieghbor to cut the hay and ended up with 567 bales off of 5 acres of pasture. A lot more that we thought. We were also successfull in selling it all to a cheese maker on Saltspring Island. We are so proud. Officially farmers. I love the story.

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Had reported Mar 25 that I had purchased a property in the country and we would be building. We did get possession of the land on April 1 and actually I had thought we would be further down the road by now than we are. We were able to get the approach put in and get the gate up so the nieghbors sheep don't escape. We did get our building plans and have started to price things out. In order to apply for a building permit there are a few other hoops you have to jump through. Along with providing 2 copies of the plans you also need a septic permit from the health authority. That is underway. It required hiring a septic contractor and doing test holes. They then spec the size of the tank and field etc and specify the location as well as put in a plan of the septic layout. The cost of doing that was between $750 (with $200 going to the health authority) and $1200. We had hoped to delay this for awhile because we dont intend to put the septic in till later this fall, but we needed the licence now. We also needed to apply to the Home owner protection office for a owner builder permit to build our own house. $425 plus we have been waiting a couple of weeks so far to get the approval. The homeowner protection office licences builders and gives permission to people to build there own home. This is unique to BC I think. Check out their website at www.HPO.bc.ca for a list of the regulations. During this time we have been trying to get quotes and we hope to be in a position to apply for a permit by Jun 1 and be building by July. The hay is now over 3 feet high so we hope to find someone to cut and bale it. Should be an interesting summer

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The Agricultural Land Commission is going through its first changes since it inception in 1974. The province is being split into 2 different zones. Zone 1 takes in about 10% of the land mass but a large percentage of the agricultural production and encompass' the lower mainland delta, Vancouver Island and the Okanagan. The other 90% is considered zone 2 where the regulations are being somewhat relaxed. The government says this is a modernization of the regulations around the use and preservation of farm land.

 

" In zone 1, where land is in greater demand and there are development and population pressures, ALC decisions will continue to be made on the original principle of preserving agricultural land. In zone 2, where  growing seasons are shorter and there are lower value crops, ALC decisions will now, in addition to the original principle, include additional considerations to provide farmers with more flexibility to support their farming operations" the government said in a satement. The amendments"don't at all change the independent decision making process of the commission. The commission remains an independent body." 

 

It would appear that the changes in zone 2 are a reflection of the reality that farmers need more flexibility for "value added farming activities" in order to remain as farmers. It is my understanding that the flexibilty will depend on the lands capability for agricultural production. With oil and gas exploration at a fever pitch we may see more land being available for oil pumping.

 

Zone 1 lands are left unchanged and the rules will likely be tightened somewhat although there are sufficient restrictions now in my opinion. 

 

 

 

 

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My wife and I are lucky enough to have found a 5 acre piece of Agricultural land zoned A-1 and we will be building a new home there this summer. I will make posts as we go to keep you informed of any hick ups along the way. Our first task is to get an approach onto the land off of the municipal road in the area. I had thought that this would require application and approval by the dept. of Highways but not so for this purpose. If the approach is for a single family home, basically a driveway, then no application is required as long as this will be the only access point for the land. So if you already have an approach you cant get a second one without approval. IYou do need approval if you are putting an approach in for a subdivision of commercial ooperation. So now we are sourcing a local company to put the approach in and install a plastic culvert. Then we have to open the fence and install a gate. Ahh the start of a very interesting summer. Looking forward to it,

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In British Columbia you can reduce your property tax burden on a agricultural property by gaining a farm status designation on the property from BC assessment. The basic rule is that when you have less thatn 2 acres of agricultural land you must have sales in excess of $10,000 of agricultural products grown on that land and sold off that land. Just to be clear what you consume or feed your family off the land is not included. If you have between 2 and 10 acres the number drops to $2500, Over 10 acres requires the $2500 plus 5% of the value of land over 10 acres. Income for the purposes of farm class will be calculated based on the farm gate price you receive on qualifying agricultural products.  To see a list of qualifying agricultural products as well as the rest of the rules check out the website at bcassessment.ca/public 

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Just getting through the weekend at the Island Agricultural Show in Duncan. Good success again this year although the attendence was down a little on friday because of the weather. We did get some snow in the area on the weekend which is rare this time of year. Lots of interest in the presentation from the head of the Agricultural Land Commission.

 

People from up and down the Island attended and exhibitors from as far away as Ontario and Maine were there to let island farmers know what they had to offer. Looking forward to next year. 

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For all those farmers and soon to be farmers mark February 7 and 8 2014 in your calender. This will be the 3rd year that the Cowichan Valley, Duncan will host the Vancouver Island Agricultural Show. There are a number of exhibitors and you can also attend a number of workshops on different topics. The show has been a great success the last 2 years and will be even larger this year. Check out their website at www.iashow.ca and I'll see you there.

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The BC Agricultural Land Commission came into effect in 1973 to protect valuable farm land from development. It has extensive rules on the use of land designated for farm purposes and has as it's mandate to protect agricultural property from being used for other purposes. Trying to rezone or get land out of the Land Reserve or ALR is difficult if not impossible. So if you are buying land with the intention of being able to do something outside the regulations you will be in for a fight with the Land Commission. You will occasionally see land that operates outside the regulations but for the most part this land use has predated the legislation and its use is grandfathered.

 

Some ALR land can accomodate more than one residence by zoning or regulation but this is with the approval of the ALC and it is not easily obtained. To give you an example a friend had 18 acres in the ALR and wanted his parents to be able to build on the land with him. The closest he was allowed was a one year tempory permit for a single wide trailer, not a double, and it could be renewed yearly. Once the parents moved off the land the mobile home had to be removed. 

 

On way to justify a second residence is for farm help howver this is not a get out of jail free card. You must be able to justfy the workload on the farm to be greater than what the primary resident is capable of doing. As an example the numbers flotaed around are that the work load must be 150% great than what one person can do. If approved the second residence is limited in size to approx 1000 sq ft.

 

Over the last 40 years most residents of BC have become use to the ALR and its regulations and most local governments and residents support the purpose and mandate. 

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Here are some approximate numbers I heard at a recent conference regarding agriculture production on the Island. 112 Million in Production. 10% of the farmers have gross sales over $100,000 and account for 80% of the production. These would be the large Dairy farms, chicken operations and market gardens. The largest portion of farmers, 65%, fall into the under $10,000 in gross sales category. Some of these would be tax farmers that farm enough to get farm land tax status at a lower rate. The remaining 25% have gross sales between $10,000 and $100,000 in gross sales. These guys are serious but not large. They have the most potential for increased sales. Some interesting numbers were mentioned that 90 to 95% of food comes in from the mainland, Huge local market not being satisfied. Sounds like an opportunity. 

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The following has been taken directly from the bcegg.com website in an attempt to explain what supply management is. There are many differing political views on whether supply management is good thing or a bad thing but it is safe to say that it is a reality and its the perameters we work within.

 

"Supply management is a unique marketing system whereby farmers grow enough food to match consumer demands and industry needs. Supply management controls domestic produsction and imports. five commodities are supply managed in Canada - eggs, milk, chicken, turkey and broiler hatching eggs."

 

If you are looking at getting into any of these industries in a big way, look into what is required of you before you start looking for property. As an example when it comes to laying chickens " an egg producer is legally required to obtain a quota from the bc egg marketing board if they have more than 99 layer hens"

 

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 Large producers get the nod from large buyers and deal in a quanity that is attractive to wholesalers. Those in controlled substances such as milk and eggs deal through the marketing boards and large dairies and egg grading stations.

 

Small producers have to be a little more innovative to get noticed. One of the favorite ways is through the many farmers markets held throughout Vancouver Island. It gives the farmer an opportunity to make relationships with the customers and on Vancouver Island the population does try to support local agriculture. Many local restaurants also buy produce from local farmers and the organically grown product gets a lot of attention. There are also many farmgate sales of produce. Regulations are established by the local Vancouver Island Health Authority and the Provincial Government and can be accessed through www.viha.ca in the food safety section.

 

The wine industry is well established on the Island and most of the winery sell direct to the public as well as through local liquor outlets. Many of the vineyards also grow the grapes and sell to others for processing. Ther are many wonderfully successfull operations and google will lay them out for you on a search of Vancouver Island wines.

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The GST ( goods and services tax ) is a tax put in place by the Federal Government at a present day rate of 5% in British Columbia. Although it does not apply to used residential housing it does apply to most lot purchases, an sort of applies to commercial property and farms purchases. When I say it sort of applies, there is a system in place where the tax calculation is made and accounted for but no money changes hands. Totally confused? Here's how it works. The seller is required to collect it and the buyer is required to pay it. If the buyer/farmer registers as a GST registrant and gets a GST filing number, he would be intitled to an instant rebate of the tax. Farmers are then required to collect GST on some products they sell (not food) and are entitled to input tax credits on farm related purchases. As an example farmers can claim an input tax credit of farm related purchases like fuel, hydro and equipment used for production purposes. They also charge GST and remit to the government on all non food sales from the farm. This all requires reporting on a monthly, quarterly on annual basis based on gross sales.  Most small scale farming operations would report annually. Make sure you know what the GST status is when you are buying so you can avoid surprises. If you aren't already bored you can visit the governmnet website at www.cra-arc.gc.ca/gsthst

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Property transfer tax is a tax buyers pay the Provincial Government in BC on the purchase price of real estate. The rate is 1% on the first $200,000 and 2% on the balance. So if you purchase a property, your lawyer or notary is required to collect this amount from you and remit it to the Government. Lets say the purchase price of the property is $400,000, you would pay 1% on the first $200K or $2,000 and 2% or $4,000 on the next $200k for a total of $6,000. This tax has been in place since 1994 and it isn't likely to go anywhere. More info at www.sbr.gov.bc.ca 

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