Buying Farmland in British Columbia’s ALR

After touring open houses in the Fraser Valley on the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), seeing the demand for detached housing in rural neighborhoods first-hand didn’t come at any surprise. Considering new listings for the month of August 2021 fell to their lowest count in over 20 years. It felt more like an auction, with waves of interested parties pulling up on the sprawling paved driveway through the grand entry gates.

How can you not desire to live on 5 to 10 acres of your own farmland, to do with it what you will. A true Viking dream. When I learn about unique types of property such as general agricultural, it becomes somewhat of an obsession. Understanding how to determine market value, or the sentimental value placed on the home from its long-time owners, can become challenging in a fast-moving market.

The ALR is a “provincial land-use zone where agriculture is the priority use.” It comprises 5% of BC’s total land base, and is the area with the greatest agricultural capacity.

When buying property in the ALR, along with a home inspection, it’s recommended to get a well test, septic test, soil and tissue sample. A plant tissue analysis is used to detect low nutrient levels in plants before they are seen by the human eye. The test results are an indicator of plant nutritional health and a basis for diagnosing whether existing problems are nutritional in nature.

There are a number of different uses for land in the ALR, which shows why such a high value is placed on properties within this zone. The possibilities for experimenting with new types of business are plenty. If the land is in the ALR, land uses are restricted and agriculture is the priority use, as stated in the Agriculture Land Commission Act and the Agriculture Land Reserve Regulations.

Here are some of the activities and use cases:

Farming and Ranching Activities

Raising livestock (cattle, bison, sheep, goats, hogs, horses)Berries
Livestock grazingTree Fruits
Poultry production (chicken, turkeys, waterfowl)Vegetables (field, greenhouse)
Dairy operationsNuts
ApicultureGrains and oilseeds
AgroforestryForage crops
GrapesOrnamentals (floriculture, horticultural, nursery crops)
MushroomsGreen housing

Permitted Farm Uses

Wineries & CideriesFarm retail sales
Storage, packing & processing of farm productsTemporary or seasonal agri-tourism activities
Timber production, harvesting and silvicultureAgroforestry
Equestrian facilitiesProduction of compost with conditions
Application of soil amendmentsLand development works for farm purposes

Permitted Non-Farm Uses

Home based businessAggregate extraction less than 500 m3
Temporary sawmill subject to conditionsConservation & passive recreation & open land parks
Pet kennels and breeding facilitiesEducation & research (not schools)
Production, storage and application of Class A compostForce mains, trunk sewers, gas and water pipelines within an existing right of way
Production & development of biological products used in integrated pest management

You can search for farmland, read the recent changes to statute and regulations, or contact me for more information.

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Adam Naamani
Entrepreneur, real estate specialist, and software developer, based in Vancouver.

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