WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

* Farmland must be tended. If you do not plan to work the land yourself, you will likely need to rent it to a farmer. The income from renting out farmland is very low - usually in the range of $25 - 75 per acre, per year.

* Woodland lots can make beautiful building sites, but make sure you have a good source of clean water and the ability to install a septic system at a reasonable cost. Most people will also want to have hydro available on the property. It is possible to go "off the grid" and run your own solar-powered options, but the initial investment can be expensive.

Note: The opinions expressed on this website are those of the author. It is best to gather information from several sources before making a decision to purchase rural property, and this website does not purport to discuss all the issues that might arise. This information is provided on a "use at your own risk" basis and the author assumes no liability for subsequent use of the information provided here.


FARMS AND ACREAGE

By far the largest amount of land available in rural areas is in the form of farms, acreage, woodland, and rural residential lots.

In the early 1900's it was still possible to make a living and raise a family on a 50 acre farm. Earning a good income from farming now requres a very large capital investment, and most viable farms operate on many hundreds of acres that are either owned or rented. While it is still possible to use a smaller farm to earn a supplemental income, and to use smaller acreages for market garden operations, very few of the "back-to-the-landers", who left the cities in the 1970's to farm a few acres in the country, are still earning a living off the land.

RENTING OUT YOUR FIELDS

If you decide to purchase farm land, you have a choice to make. You can choose to work it yourself if you are able to buy the equipment to do so, or you will need to rent the land to a farmer to be used as part of a regular farming operation.

Leaving the land to revert to a wild state is not an option you should consider.

First of all, farmland is a valuable resource and it needs to be used properly to feed both our nation and those in other countries. Secondly, if you leave the land untended, it will not revert to a wild state on its own in any reasonable period of time. It will simply be overgrown with noxious non-native plants like Scotch Thistle, which will ruin your land and spread their seeds to your neighbours' properties. Ownership of farmland is a trust, and it brings responsibilities.

When it comes to renting your land, you will need to know who you are working with. People who have lived in the country for a long time have well-established reputations, and it's a good idea to talk to your neighbours about who might be a good farmer to rent your land to. One key consideration will be finding someone who has a reputation for maintaining the land in good condition for coming generations.

In my own case, for example, there was a time when circumstances made it impossible to guarantee that we would be staying on the same piece of property for another year. The land had been producing corn for 3 years and was becoming depleted, so it really needed to be sown to alfalfa and used to produce hay for a period of 3 or 4 years. This is an expensive operation and there is no way that a farmer can get a return on the investment of sowing the land in the first, or perhaps even the second year. At this particular time we weren't sure if we were going to stay or move, and we could provide no guarantees to the farmer about future rentals of the land. In spite of this, the farmer went ahead and sowed the seed anyway. A risky proposition for him financially, but in his words, "It needed to be done". He was, and is, a good guardian of the soil.

Relationships in which your values come into conflict with someone renting your land are to be avoided. For example, will the farming be done "organically"? If not, how will your exposure to chemical sprays be handled. If you do decide to go "organic" how will you feel about the smell involved in having manure spread on your fields each year? (The smell lasts for three or four days.) These are all things you need to discuss in advance with the person who will be renting your land.

One additional note: Make sure the farmer renting your land has insurance for working on your property. Farm accidents do happen and you do not want to be in a position where costs will be claimed against your own homeowner's policy. Your own insurance company may insist on having the farmer produce a document showing evidence of this type of coverage.

You should also check to make sure the person renting your land is a registered farmer if you want to claim a lower tax rate for the agricultural portion of your land.


WOODLAND AND RURAL RESIDENTIAL PROPERTIES

Most of the land in country areas that is not farmland has remained in a natural state because it was unsuitable for farming. That doesn't mean that it is not perfectly suitable for building a home, and some of these properties are very scenic.

As with all other rural properties you will want to make sure that your have a reliable source of good water, and a safe means of disposing of waste, before you purchase or build a home on a bush lot.

HOW BIG IS AN ACRE?

The acre is an old unit of measurement from the Imperial system, and it was originally considered to be the amount of land that a yoke of oxen could plow in one day. Since that would depend to some degree on how good your oxen were, the unit was standardized as being 10 square chains, which was 160 square rods, and since a rod was 5.5 yards, that would make it 4840 square yards or 43,560 square feet. An acre was also 1/640th of a square mile.

Despite the complexity of its origins, the acre continues to be the unit most commonly used in rural areas, even though Canada has officially converted to the Metric system.

For a rough idea of the size of an acre, an American football field, complete with end zones, would be about 1.32 acres. You could fit 6 generously-sized subdivision lots, at 50' x 145' each, on one acre.


In this aerial photograph, the
shaded area is about 1 acre in size.

The Canadian government sells its property in hectares, which are 10,000 square meters. One hectare is equal to 2.471 acres.

Here are some other metric conversion factors you may find handy.

To convert from: Multiply by:
Feet to Metres .3048
Meters to Feet 3.281
Sq. Feet to Sq. Metres .0929
Sq. Metres to Sq. Feet 10.76
Acres to Hectares .4047
Hectares to Acres 2.471


A BIT OF HISTORY

Many of our older farms still have their original hedgerows. These are long fences of stone that were created when the early settlers removed the rock from the fields in order to prepare them for cultivation. Some of these rocks, including those in the picture below (taken on our property) are well over a ton in weight, and they sit in silent tribute to the work of our ancestors and their teams of draft horses.


Hedgerow, Centre Hastings, Ontario

Hedgerows are of value to the environment in that they allow space for the wild growth of native plants, and shelter for numerous animals. Unfortunately, hedgerows and the small fields they outline are also a real inconvenience to modern agriculture, so many hedgerows have been removed to create larger fields.

When you own your country property, you will need to weigh these issues yourself. There is a value in progress, but there is also a value in protecting our heritage.



Copyright, Bob Foster, 2015