The largest piece of cultivated land for sale in Canada isn’t in B.C.’s Fraser Valley, southern Alberta or the land of the living skies — it’s actually in northern Manitoba’s Carrot River valley.
For a cool $56.5 million, the buyer could own 25,900 acres of farmland near The Pas, Man, which is about 520 km northwest of Winnipeg. The parcel is made up of four different family farms, including Big Lake Angus Farm, which is owned by the Markus family.
“We actually don’t have family members right now who are willing to take over in the next generation, so we’re looking at selling the farm and hopefully having that legacy carry on in another form,” said Linda Markus, the daughter of the family patriarch who bought the first 10,000 acres almost 60 years ago.
The Markus family solicited the services of a Saskatchewan-based real estate agent who specializes in marketing farmland.
Darren Sander looked around the community and felt there was an opportunity to package a few people’s properties into one big parcel to attract buyers from further away.
He ended up finding three other families who wanted to go in on the sale, and their properties all intersect. That’s unheard of, he said.
“That is unprecedented as far as finding that in the west or the east,” Sander said. “It’s all in a block, basically. That’s a very difficult thing to find or to put together, whether you’re looking in Saskatchewan, Alberta, or even the east. The competition is such that it’s very difficult to put those things together.”
The size of the acreage is also remarkable. It dwarfs the City of Brandon, which is just over 19,100 acres. By comparison, the City of Winnipeg is about 115,000 acres.
Sander says as far as he knows, it’s the biggest piece of cultivated land on the market in all of Canada.
60 years of farming
For the Markus family, the Big Lake Angus farm represents a legacy of determination, Linda says.
Her father Anthony and mother Margareta bought the farm in 1962. Anthony had fled Hungary just before the 1956 revolution and ended up in Austria where he met the woman who he would marry. He moved to Regina, Sask., where he worked as a baker until Margareta followed him.
The couple began farming 160 acres near Swan River, Man., but Linda says her dad’s dreams were bigger than what the property could accommodate.
“There were stones and a few little issues and no opportunity for him to expand,” she said.
Her parents eventually bought their farm on a much bigger piece of land in the Carrot River valley. Anthony knew the area was good for farming.
It’s located near the confluence of the Carrot and Saskatchewan rivers, making it prime farmland. The area is dominated by boreal forest, lakes, rivers, streams, bogs and marshes.
“The land here is flat, it’s full of top soil as far as you can go, it’s all top soil,” Linda said.
The family now grows wheat, canola and oats, and has 1,000 head of cattle.
Although the Markus family is excited for the change, it’s not just a loss of a home or a job, it’s a lifestyle.
“We have mixed feelings. This has been our family home and we’ve been here for close to 60 years and I think for my parents, they’re not planning on leaving the community. This is where they’re comfortable and where they’re at home,” Linda says.
Her brother Tony says it can be tiring work.
“When you’re on a farm, it’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle. You live it, you breathe it, you’re here every day. You wake up to it. You never look at is as an actual job,” he said.
“I can be busy 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”
Linda hopes another family will take on the challenge.
“If there’s another family out there with enough family members that want to carry out the labour, this is perfect for them.”
Sander said the price point per acre is right for family-run farm operations looking to expand. He’s heard expressions of interest from the Vancouver and Toronto areas, as well as from the U.S.
But who it will actually go to remains to be seen. Sander has also heard interest from larger investment companies, including some in China.